Friday, June 14, 2019

Book Review: Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins (Speakeasy Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Interesting historical details
Cons: Mostly flat characters, slow plot
The Bottom Line:
Speakeasy setting
History overshadows
Plot and characters

Bringing 1929 Chicago to Life

I love history, especially American history, so I’m always on the lookout for a new promising sounding historical mystery series.  When Murder Knocks Twice, the first in a new series set in a Chicago speakeasy, crossed my radar, I was immediately interested.

Gina Ricci is thrilled when she lands a job at The Third Door, one of many speakeasies in 1929 Chicago.  Her friend, Lulu, already works there, and she has promised the tips are good.  Since Gina needs to support herself and her sick father, the promised money is very welcome, and the glitch, glamour, and possibility of meeting some celebrities captivates Gina.

As Gina settles into her new job, she starts to hear that her predecessor was murdered, but no one seems willing to talk about it.  Besides, it happened away from The Third Door, so surely the murder was unrelated to the job Gina has now, right?  Gina has just convinced herself of that when she witnesses a murder.  Is she safe in her new job?  Can she figure out what is really happening?

Those looking to get lost in the world of Prohibition era Chicago will enjoy this book.  We get lots of details of what life was like back then, complete with discussions of current celebrities.  We even get a historical figure who is a supporting character.

However, those looking for a good mystery will be disappointed.  I have sometimes found that historical details can overwhelm a historical mystery, and I felt that was the case here.  The murder Gina witnesses doesn’t take place until a third of the way into the book.  While the pace does pick up a bit more after that, I still wish we’d had a few more clues and red herrings to ponder.  The ending was a bit abrupt as it raced to wrap everything up, although the solution that Gina reaches does make sense.  I’m not saying I was bored, but I could have been more entertained.

There is a large cast of characters, and they suffer as a result.  While we get to know Gina and a few others, many of the rest remain fairly thin.  Obviously, those important to the series can be fleshed out as the series progresses, and hopefully they will be.

If this time period or location interest you, I definitely recommend you pick up Murder Knocks Twice.  Hopefully, the books get stronger as the series progresses.

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