Come Hell or Highball

Written by Maia Chance
Review by Francesca Pelaccia

In Prohibition-era New York City, we are introduced to a 31-year-old society matron, Lola Woodby, who has survived a loveless marriage with highballs, detective novels, and cakes. When her husband, Alfie, dies, Lola thinks she can now enjoy his fortune, but instead inherits his debts. Kicked out of her mansion by her temperance-touting brother-in-law, she moves into her late husband’s love nest in the city with her faithful Swedish cook, Berta. But without money to pay for rent or the other essentials of life, Lola and Berta accept an offer made by one of Alfie’s girlfriends to retrieve a reel of film from a high society acquaintance. It all sounds easy enough, until the man in possession of the film is murdered, and Lola is suspected. In an attempt to clear her name and hopefully find that reel of film, Lola and Berta tangle with gangsters, another murder that makes Lola the suspect again, silent film stars, movie producers, a girdle heiress, a snoopy journalist, interfering relatives, and a sexy private investigator.

The Roaring Twenties and New York City of the era come to life as Lola and Berta get themselves involved and sometimes embroiled in dangerous situations, but the fun, humour, and slapstick situations of a romp or caper are flat, or stretched too thin to be amusing. The heroine, Lola, is sassy and witty, but relies more on Berta’s smarts than her own and sometimes comes across as rash rather than strong.

This is the debut of a new crime series that relies too much on stereotypical characters and situations to be a fun-filled caper.