This genteel historical mystery proves that even during a natural disaster, there’s room for a fiendish murder.
In Still’s (Shadow of Twilight, 2003) first novel in her Galveston Hurricane series, she deftly introduces readers to her plucky heroine, Dash Gallagher, the Texas city’s first female attorney. She lost her husband and her home last year in the Great Storm of 1900, yet she still works hard to rebuild her practice; meanwhile, she suffers from migraines and strives to adopt two young girls, Teddie and Jinxie, who are orphans like herself. It’s been a struggle for Dash to establish her identity in a changing world: “As an attorney, I might have a man’s job, but I was a lady, a respectable lady....I would be a mother as soon as the judge signed the adoption papers.” To complicate her already busy life, a promising new client named Larisa Dorfman, an estranged member of a wealthy Russian immigrant family, is found drowned near the docks. Dash teams up with her landlord, a Scottish detective named Mr. Barker, to investigate her death, which they soon determine was murder. Author Still expertly interjects social commentary into Dash’s reasoning for needing to solve the case: “I can’t sit around and wait for press stories and whispers to ruin my reputation. I plan to find out who killed her so I can be done with the whole thing.” The author adeptly steers the squabbling duo down a dangerous path as they search for Larisa’s murderer and for a “mystical” treasure sought by the patriarch of the dead woman’s family. Along the way, the pair’s platonic relationship heads toward something more. Still effectively uses the bleak setting of storm-ravaged Galveston as a backdrop and does an equally impressive job of creating memorable secondary characters, such as Dash’s nosy, lady-reporter friend MJ Quakenbush and the members of the snobbish, secretive Karparov clan. The author paces the mystery well, maintaining the feel of a slower era without forfeiting any narrative momentum.
A delightful first entry in an offbeat mystery series.