Monday, April 15, 2024

Book Review: Under the Paper Moon by Shaina Steinberg

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Interesting mystery in post WWII Los Angeles
Cons: I spent much of the book wishing for something different for the characters
The Bottom Line:
Reunite with past
In historic mystery
Could have been better

I Wished I’d Liked It Better

When I first heard about Under the Paper Moon by Shaina Steinberg, I thought it would be something I’d enjoy.  A historical book set right after World War II in Los Angeles, plus the main characters had been spies during the war.  It immediately grabbed my attention.  While there were parts I enjoyed, there were parts that I struggled with.

When her brother was taken hostage while fighting in Europe, Evelyn Bishop went overseas and joined the OSS in an effort to end the war sooner if not find and rescue her brother.  Now that the war is over, Evelyn has returned to Los Angeles.  Her father owns an airplane factory, so she doesn’t need to work a day in her life if she doesn’t want to.  But she wants to, so she’s opened a PI agency, only taking the clients she really wants.

Her latest case finds her trailing a family friend to find evidence that he’s cheating on his wife.  But the last thing Eveyln expected was for him to be murdered.  In order to figure out what happened, Eveyln is going to have to team up with Nick Gallagher, the man who betrayed her when the war ended.  Will they uncover the truth?

I’ve really struggled more than usual with my thoughts on this book.  Usually, I can tell pretty quickly what worked and what didn’t for me.  There are certain things I look for, and if I’m not enjoying a book, it’s usually one of those things causing the problem.

In this case, I did enjoy much of the book.  We get some flashbacks to what happened during the war, which help explain what is going on in the present.  These are clearly marked, and a small part of the book overall (despite how it might seem early on).

And the contemporary mystery was good as well.  There were enough twists and surprises to keep me engaged.  The climax made sense, too.

Unfortunately, many of the issues I had with the book get into spoiler territory.  I will say that I knew we were supposed to be rooting for Evelyn and Nick to get back together, and all I saw were the issues in their relationship.  The author wrote herself into a corner as far as their relationship went with the story she was trying to tell.

I think my other issue with the story is explained by the author’s note at the end.  She set out to tell a certain story with a certain outcome.  That ending felt forced, and I found myself rooting for a different outcome most of the book.

Having said that, I was satisfied with where the characters wound up when I turned the final page.  Again, it’s hard to explain my thoughts on the book without giving specific spoilers, but it does show just how complex we can be as humans, doesn’t it?

And maybe it’s the film noir vibe of the book that turned me off more than anything.  I do enjoy the occasional darker tale, so I thought I might be okay with this one.

The narration was mostly limited to either Eveyln or Nick’s point of view (and it changed between chapters), but at times, it switched to omniscient point of view, and it always felt awkward when it did, especially since it was telling us things instead of showing them.

Ultimately, I’m not sorry I read Under the Paper Moon, but I’m not likely to seek out other books by Shaina Steinberg.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

1 comment:

  1. It certainly sounds like a premise that had great potential, but it obviously didn't get there.

    Thanks for sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.


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