When Julia Kydd arrives in New York in 1924, she thinks her only struggle will be to fight her half brother’s control over the inheritance she’s shortly due. But before long, she’s involved in a mystery—and maybe even a murder.
Julia, who had been living in London and trying to make a go of her fledgling publishing company, is about to turn 25—the age when she is to inherit her share of a large fortune. On the boat back to New York, she reunites with Glennis, an old school friend who is rich, feisty, and more than a little flighty. Together, they explore Jazz Age Manhattan while Julia hopes her elder half brother, Philip, will not contest the will. However, when Glennis’ sister, a well-known suffragette, dies under strange circumstances, Philip makes Julia a proposition—solve the mystery and he won’t fight the will. As Julia probes into the secrets of Glennis’ wealthy, pompous, and proud family, she also learns a great deal about the issues facing women who brave society’s scorn for demanding equal rights. In this debut novel, Benn shows that she’s done her research into the mores and manners of the age—from art and fashion to the requirement that a man must sign for any loan a woman wants to take out. At times, though, these chunks of information slow down the plot instead of being seamlessly woven into it, and Benn spends perhaps a little too much time pondering the limited options available to women of the era. The ending, with its multiple surprises, helps a little and certainly sets up things for spunky Julia to appear again.
There is enough promise in this first outing to hope that, with a little less pondering and a little more pacing, Benn's next mystery will be livelier.