Gin and Panic

Written by Maia Chance
Review by Ellen Keith

Down-on-her luck widow Lola Woodby has been working to keep herself and her erstwhile cook turned business partner, Berta Lundgren, in gin and chocolates. The women are the proprietors of the Discreet Retrieval Agency (“No job too trivial”). Their latest job requires them to steal a rhinoceros head from the estate of Rudy Montgomery, returning it to client Lord Sudley, the man who actually made the fatal shot in Africa. Montgomery is killed and, true to Lola and Berta’s escapades, nothing goes to plan.

I’ve loved this series, set in Prohibition-era New York, with its vivid sense of time and place, but I was less entertained by this outing than the previous two books. Lola and Berta need a certain canniness to have established their business, but here they are constantly getting in their own way, with their mistakes telegraphed a mile away. Need to get found jewels to the bank before it closes? Naturally, they show up just as the doors are being locked, and of course the jewels are then stolen from them. The screwball comedy is becoming predictable. But, they do emerge triumphant to sleuth another day, and yes, I’ll be there for their next fine mess.