In this second installment of a mystery series, a young woman navigates her future with her fiance and the unfriendly world of the upper class.
After a hasty engagement, Henrietta Von Harmon, a former usherette and taxi dancer in Depression-era Chicago, discovers that her intended, Clive Howard, isn’t just the dashing police inspector she thought he was. He also happens to be the scion of an elite family living on the wealthy North Shore of the city. Henrietta settles into the family’s estate, Highbury, only to struggle with the unspoken proprieties of the upper class and her disapproving future mother-in-law. As she befriends the servants, whom she feels much more at ease with, she quickly becomes embroiled in a minor intrigue: the Howards’ old cook loses a family ring and suspects the gardener of stealing it. Meanwhile, Clive works to solve a mystery of his own: a series of grisly murders in the city. While Henrietta’s delinquent younger brother acts out and her mother hides secrets about her past, the heroine and Clive grapple painfully with what their marriage would mean for each of their futures. Cox (A Girl Like You, 2016) successfully leads the reader through the suspenseful plot’s many unanswered questions and manages to keep the story moving even with her characters’ long introspective sessions. Those episodes imbue them with personality and life, though the author sometimes resorts to using incredibly long sentences to mimic internal monologue, which can become bewildering (“Henrietta had never seen anything like this, except perhaps in the movies, of which she had seen very few, actually, and she couldn’t pull her eyes away, so mesmerized was she, despite her new betrothed sitting beside her, his fedora hat placed firmly on his head and a pipe gripped loosely between his teeth”). The author adroitly uses indirect speech to present a cast of colorful personalities—the book switches effortlessly between voices as distinct as that of Mrs. Howard’s arch scheming and Henrietta’s sister Elsie’s naïve awe. The result is a complex yet engrossing web of interactions. And, as the story progresses, the connections between the threads tighten dramatically, culminating in a somewhat abrupt but nail-biting resolution.
An engaging and effective romp rich with historical details.