Lynn and Cindy: This is the year for mysteries set in the 1920s! We have so many that we used some of them in earlier posts on historical mysteries and art mysteries, but clearly this is the year for the Roaring Twenties!
Lynn: First up for me is Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter (2016) by Beth Fantaskey. “Murder on Halsted Street,” 10-year-old paper girl Isabel Feeney hollers, but murder doesn’t seem to be big news in 1926 Chicago. “It’s Prohibition,” explains Isabel’s mother. “That law has made the city crazy.” But just as Isabel is packing up for the night, a gunshot sounds from the alley a good customer just walked down! She finds the beautiful Miss Giddings kneeling over her gangster boyfriend, a fired pistol on the snow beside them. When the police arrive, led by Detective James Culhane, they are convinced Miss Giddings killed her boyfriend—but Isabel is sure the killer is someone else.
Fantaskey’s middle-grade mystery introduces a plucky young heroine who dreams of one day reporting the news, not just selling newspapers. Her father died in the trenches in WWI and her mother works nights trying to support the family. Isabel only rarely goes to school, working hard to sell the Chicago Tribune to supplement the family income. A cast of appealing characters provides interest and historical context while red herrings and well-placed clues will have readers guessing right up to the end.
Cindy: The real mystery for me is where did May go? Mystery Month is drawing to a close and I am still reading. I’m supposed to be telling you about The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters, and I will, but you don’t have to worry about spoilers from me because I haven’t finished this YA book yet. A clip from Sarah Hunter’s starred review for Booklist sets the stage for this unique take on Hamlet:
Hanalee Denney’s father has been haunting the crossroads of Elston, Oregon, right where Joe Adder ran him down in his Model T after a night out drinking. Now that Joe’s out of prison, Hanalee’s ready to get her revenge, but before she can fire the bullet home, Joe convinces her to take a closer look at her stepfather, Uncle Clyde, who married her mother quickly after her father’s death. If that plot sounds vaguely Shakespearean, you wouldn’t be wrong. Winters retells Hamlet in a grandly realized Prohibition-era Oregon setting, featuring biracial Hanalee in the title role, while the prejudices of the day simmer in the background.
The book leaps into action with feisty Hanalee telling the tale in Winters’ expert hand. Historical black-and-white photos and gorgeous book design add to the mood. My holiday weekend plans include reading this to the finish—I hope you join me. It’s a great way to close out 2016’s Mystery Month.