The Last Note of Warning

Katharine Schellman's third Prohibition-era mystery, The Last Note of Warning, is as jazzy and intriguing as the Charleston dance steps beloved by its protagonist, Vivian Kelly. Working as a dress delivery girl by day and a speakeasy server at the Nightingale by night, Vivian is stunned to find herself accused of murdering a wealthy client's husband. With one week to find the real killer before she's hauled off to jail, Vivian digs into the victim's life. Her investigation leads straight back to the Nightingale--and its alluring proprietor, Honor Huxley.

Schellman (The Last Drop of Hemlock) turns up the volume on her Jazz Age setting: dazzling beaded dresses, intoxicating cocktails, seductive tunes (sung by Vivian's best friend, Bea, on the Nightingale's stage). But she also delicately explores the nuances of Vivian's relationships with those she loves: Bea, willing to help Vivian but convinced her friend's tactics will get them both arrested; Vivian's sister, Florence, now married and living in Chinatown but still protective of her little sister; and Vivian's not-quite boyfriend, Leo, a bootlegger whose family connections to the police commissioner make it difficult for him to help her. Honor's ties to the victim also leave Vivian wondering whom she can trust. As she chases down clues from Harlem to Brooklyn, Vivian must also face her own fears of being abandoned and make difficult choices about trust and forgiveness.

Like the cocktails mixed by Danny Chin, the Nightingale's bartender (and Vivian's brother-in-law), Viv's third adventure is tart and satisfying, with a bittersweet, complex finish. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Powered by: Xtenit