A Jazz Age Mystery

Last Call at the Nightingale by Katherine Schellman

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Summary from NetGalley:

New York, 1924. Vivian Kelly’s days are filled with drudgery, from the tenement lodging she shares with her sister to the dress shop where she sews for hours every day.

But at night, she escapes to The Nightingale, an underground dance hall where illegal liquor flows and the band plays the Charleston with reckless excitement. With a bartender willing to slip her a free glass of champagne and friends who know the owner, Vivian can lose herself in the music. No one asks where she came from or how much money she has. No one bats an eye if she flirts with men or women as long as she can keep up on the dance floor. At The Nightingale, Vivian forgets the dangers of Prohibition-era New York and finds a place that feels like home.

But then she discovers a body behind the club, and those dangers come knocking.

Caught in a police raid at the Nightingale, Vivian discovers that the dead man wasn’t the nameless bootlegger he first appeared. With too many people assuming she knows more about the crime than she does, Vivian finds herself caught between the dangers of the New York’s underground and the world of the city’s wealthy and careless, where money can hide any sin and the lives of the poor are considered disposable…including Vivian’s own.

ARC provided by St Martin’s Press via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

I really enjoyed this mystery/thriller with interesting characters and lots of twists and unexpected plot turns to keep me guessing and turning those pages. My only slight disappointment was the setting never quite gelled for me. I never felt fully immersed in the roaring twenties or the fact that it was New York.

Vivian was a delightful character, full of life and wanting more than what she had been dealt. I totally got that she just wanted to spend her nights dancing and drinking and having fun, given her dreary job and home. She was pretty smart, although she did occasionally make poor decisions as she tried to solve the murder. I also enjoyed her friendship with Bea and her relationship with her older sister Flo. Bea was always there for Vivian and was a great confidante. Flo was a little harder to like, but being the older sister, she did feel responsible for Vivian, and she could be fierce when she needed to be.

There is a bit of romance as well, between Vivian and two other characters. I hesitate to call it a triangle as Vivian mostly feels confused by her feelings for either of them. I really liked Leo, and even though Vivian had trouble trusting him, I knew he was going to end up being a good guy. Honor, the owner of the Nightingale, was a little harder to like. She does put Vivian in harm’s way, not intentionally, but if she had really considered what she was asking Vivian to do, then she should have known how dangerous it might be. Her flirting also felt disingenuous at times.

I really did enjoy the writing and the mystery was very well done. I had most of it figured out by the end except for the true identity of the killer, which came as a bit of a surprise. My only issue with the book is the setting never felt fully fleshed out. I never really felt like it was the 1920’s, but I am not sure why exactly. Some of it was the dialogue felt too modern at times as did some of the actions of the characters. But that is a very minor complaint, and easily overlooked.

Although I don’t know for sure, I think this is going to be a series. I certainly hope so. I would love to see Vivian’s character continue to grow and solve more mysteries. There were a few loose ends at the end of this story that will certainly lend themselves to an exciting sequel. If you like historical mysteries then this is a book that you will want to add to your tbr and read as soon as you can.

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