Fate of a Flapper (The Speakeasy Murders 2)

Written by Susanna Calkins
Review by Gini Grossenbacher

Lovers of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series, based on Kerry Greenwood’s novels, will rejoice to find another writer who sets her fiction in the late 1920s, with its world of flappers, speakeasies, and underworld crime. Our amateur sleuth, Gina Ricci, is a cigarette girl at the Third Door, one of Chicago’s premier moonshine parlors. Even though their establishment is illegal under Prohibition, they can’t serve cocktails with enough speed, and in that ambience Gina watches two young women named Fruma and Adelaide who enter in “feathers, silks, satins, beads, boas, headpieces—everyone sparkly, shiny, and ready for a boozy grand time.” Gina observes Fruma’s ex-fiancé eyeing her bitterly from across the room, while Fruma continues to knock back one cocktail after another. Next day when Gina is called to take crime scene photos at the behest of her policewoman friend, Nancy, she is startled to see Fruma, the victim, sprawled across her bed, bits of white powder sprinkled across her nose, and a look of frozen terror on her dead face.

Author Susanna Calkins’s Ph.D. in history serves her well, as she describes Gina’s world of alleyways, historically memorable characters, and detailed interiors. Her deft touches in adding enough detail to character description, but not too much, provide the reader a passageway into the era when the terrors of Gina’s efforts to do her job at the speakeasy amidst the gangs, bombings, and possible poisonings grow nearer. When the stock market crashes, the reader witnesses the desperation that ensues, engulfing the murder investigation in a very black period indeed. A fun, fast-moving read.