In 1929, a needy young woman lands a job in a Chicago speak-easy. What could possibly go wrong?
Gina Ricci is the sole support of her father, whose worsening palsy is making it almost impossible for him to work. Her friend Lulu, who works at the Third Door, suggests that she apply to replace a cigarette girl who was recently murdered. The speak-easy is efficiently run by Signora Castallazzo and her mobster husband, Big Mike. Gina is soon immersed in a world of socialites, college kids, straying husbands, and veterans seeking escape from their problems. In addition to the attractive young women who sell drinks and put on a show watched over by vigilant bouncers, she meets Ned, a piano player who was in love with the murdered girl, and Marty Doyle, a photographer who turns out to be the favorite cousin of Gina’s mother, who died when she was young. Gina’s intrigued by what Marty can tell her about her mother’s side of the family, Irish relatives who’ve never reached out to her. Another man who takes an interest in Gina is wounded veteran Lt. Roark, who’s on leave from the police but still taking crime scene photos. While taking a break, she finds Marty near death from a stab wound. With his dying breath he asks her to hide his camera. When she goes to Marty’s funeral, she meets some of her relatives and learns that she’s his heir. Both of his two apartments, including the one he used as a darkroom, have been searched. Clearly, something on the last roll of film Marty shot poses a threat. Unable to trust anyone, Gina takes up Roark’s offer to teach her how to develop and print photographs. She develops the film but can’t figure out which of its pictures points to a ruthless killer.
A spunky sleuth and plenty of period flavor enliven the first in a new series that takes Calkins (A Death Along the River Fleet, 2016, etc.) from English historicals to more recent but equally violent times.