I confess to having a soft spot for mysteries that take place around Christmas, so this one appealed to me.
Vivian Witchell, up and coming radio show starlet and sometimes-detective finds herself in the middle of a mystery that starts (and ends) very close to home. The loss of her beloved father stings ever more painfully as the Witchell’s approach the holidays. While her father has been gone a few years, Vivian still misses him terribly. The presence of a new man in her mother’s life especially annoys her, so she slips into her father’s study to have some quiet time alone with her thoughts in the place he loved best. While there, she finds a key to his desk, which has been missing for years. Opening the desk, she finds a wad of cash and a mysterious note. Determined to understand why her father, a famous defense attorney in 1920s Chicago, had so much cash on hand leads Vivian into a bigger and more dangerous mystery than she ever could have imagined.
Typically, I don’t mind stepping into a series where I haven’t read the earlier entries, but in this case the author provided enough details of Vivian’s first case The Darkness Knows that the reader knows how that turned out. Meaning, I won’t be going back to read the first in the series because I already know the end. Since this is an advanced reading copy, that’s something that could be handled better, and should be addressed because this is a crackerjack mystery series in the making!
Vivian is your typical, spirited Gal-Friday in her radio show career, but in real life, she’s an independent, stylish, forthright leading lady in the vein of Phryne Fisher. She’s smart and a little naughty but also vulnerable, which makes her very likable. Her relationship with PI Charlie Haverford is a blend of sexy banter and smart-assery, which has the potential to become a Nick & Nora Charles “after dark” relationship in future entries in the series.
The story here is clever, and set in the 30’s, although the roots of the mystery reach back into the 1920s. The history is accurate and colorful, and the author writes with authority. Vivian’s character is developed nicely as she moves from grieving-daughter-who-idolizes-dead-father to facing the fact that no one is perfect and sometimes we never really know the people closest to us. This is a promising series, and one I will watch. Recommended.