Thursday, June 06, 2024

Secrets abound in 1920s London in Marty Wingate's newest cozy mystery

Kudos to Marty Wingate for writing an engaging cozy mystery whose solution is a clever and unpredictable puzzle. A Body at the Dance Hall is third in a series featuring the perky, adventurous Miss Mabel Canning, who takes assignments with the Useful Women agency in 1922 London – private investigation is her specialty – while quietly investigating murders.

When Mabel gets approached about a posh gig as companion to a wealthy young American woman newly arrived in London, she looks forward to livening up her dull January by showing her charge around town. But Roxanne Arkwright, eighteen-year-old daughter of a British industrialist and his Chicago-based first wife, appears to be a high-maintenance handful.

Then, on the pair’s evening out at the Hammersmith Palais de Danse, Mabel garbed in slinky knee-length blue chiffon velvet, our sleuth gets locked in the hall’s larder by a fellow detective hired by the Arkwrights to watch Roxanne. An hour later, after Mabel is freed by an old contact at Scotland Yard, she finds the young man lying dead, and Roxanne frantic with worry about her.

The mystery plot gets deliciously complicated as it changes from having no real suspects at all, since the motive for the crime isn’t clear, to nearly everyone being a suspect. Secrets are afoot! Wingate scatters red herrings hither and thither until the perpetrator comes into surprising focus, and the book’s revelations don’t end there.

This volume stands alone perfectly, with only light allusions to Mabel’s two previous outings. The fashions and hairstyles are fabulous, the historical atmosphere lively, and the characters a fun mix, including Gladys, the friendly terrier owned by Mabel’s beau, Park Winstone. (Better naming consistency would be great; he’s called Park and Winstone equally frequently.) But let’s see more of Mabel and her fellow Useful Women, please.

A Body at the Dance Hall was published by Bookouture in April, and I'd reviewed it from NetGalley for May's Historical Novels Review. The two previous books are A Body on the Doorstep and A Body at the Séance, but you don't need to read them first.  I wish more historical mystery authors would make the effort to have their books stand alone, since it makes it so much easier for new readers. And since there weren't any spoilers, I went back and got copies of the first two.

No comments:

Post a Comment