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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review - The Broadway Murders

The "roaring twenties" were an era that, while brief, left an enduring image in our minds.  New York was the epitome of this madcap time with speakeasy bars, fashion, literary celebrities, corrupt cops, mobsters with panache and the glamor of Broadway.  Even the language was rife with hip lingo and snarky wit.  It was an exciting time and a whirlwind of changes in every aspect of life.  This week we indulge our imaginations and join this "wild and crazy" time in a book that features Dorothy Parker, one of the literary celebrities of the day as the sleuth.

Author:  Agata Stanford

Copyright:  June 2010 (Jenevacris Press) 320 pgs

Series:  1st in  Dorothy Parker Mysteries

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  Dorothy Parker - based on the American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist,  known for her wisecracks

Setting:  1920s, New York

Obtained Through:  Library Find

A well known Broadway producer is found dead with the appearance of having choked on a small tomato. Dorothy Parker remembers that Reginald Ignatius Pierce, RIP, is allergic to tomatoes and she is instantly suspicious.  Dorothy drags a willing Robert Benchley to the deceased's rooms above his theater to investigate.  They find that Reginald was a collector of Egyptian antiquities, and that they aren't the only ones sneaking in to look around.  Hidden behind velvet draperies, they watch while first an Oriental man and then an actress search the room. 

The authorities have not recognized Reginald's death as a murder, but they can't deny foul play when the lead actress in Reginald's play is found in Reginald's Egyptian sarcophagus.  Another death follows soon after.  Three murders and Dorothy, with the help of fellow members of the lunch club that became known as the Algonquin Round Table, doggedly follow clues.  Some of the members are the most recognized and celebrated reporters in NY and they start digging up plenty of information on suspects, but how it all fits together is elusive.  There is a missing Egyptian artifact from Reginald's collection that may have been stolen from an archeological dig that might explain Reginald's death but not the other two.  

This book is presented in a slightly different manner.  Sprinkled throughout are pictures of the NY landmarks that play a significant role in the story and pictures of members of the Algonquin Club.  I found this added to the illusion that the reader was entering Dorothy's world.  Additionally, the writing style affects the breezy language and popular slang to further transport you to that era when jazz artists and flappers coined modern terms.  It is a heady mix and an escapist pleasure.

Dorothy is presented with wit and sarcasm sprinkled with tremendous insight. The life she lived is believably recreated including the escapades of the Marx Brothers, the late nights of theater and dinners, even the famous speakeasy they drank at all serve as backdrop to the investigation.  I appreciated that Dorothy's reported affairs are not highlight in this story, rather she is a wounded soul who relies on her friends as her most cherished part of life. 

The supporting cast of Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Columnist Frank Pierce Adams, "The New Yorker" creator Harold Ross, and the Marx Bros. are all portrayed with humor and a nod to their historical reputations.  Dorothy's Boston Terrier named Woodrow Wilson is pure delight.

The mystery has its interesting twists and I did not see the underlying theme for the murders until it was revealed.  Although it seems the story contains a fair amount of mad-cap rollicking, I was surprised that there are no frivolous scenes, there was always a clue or a person that would be important later.

I enjoyed my trip to New York's roaring twenties era and will be returning for another dose, soon I hope.  Agata Stanford has captured the excitement of New York and the wild twenties with humor, a solid plot, never dull characters, mixed with large dashes of danger and adventure.

Before summer is gone I wanted to share this amazing recipe.
Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies


    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    1 egg
    1 (17.5 ounce) pouch sugar cookie mix
    2/3 cup raspberry baking chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

NOTE: the raspberry baking chips are available on Amazon if you can't locate them locally.  Otherwise you can add & beat in 2 teaspoons of raspberry extract to the egg/cream cheese mixture, then the cookie mix per the instructions... fold in some white chocolate chips.

In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy with an electric mixer, then beat in the egg until thoroughly combined. Mix in the cookie mix, then stir in the raspberry chips. Drop the dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets with a tablespoon or small scoop. Lightly pat the cookies to flatten.
Bake in the preheated oven until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool before serving.

From by Mis7up.

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

How interesting! This is the second series that features Dorothy Parker as a sleuth. I must read both and compare!

A.F. Heart said...

I have not read the other mystery series featuring Parker. I would love hear from somebody who has read both to know how they compare.

I think Dorothy Parker must have been a very fascinating person.

agata stanford said...

I have enjoyed reading your reviews, but what a surprise that you wrote such a lovely review of my book! Actually, The Broadway Murders is the first in my Dorothy Parker Mystery series. I just completed the 4th, which will be launched late November. I love a good mystery, and have such fun writing my series. Thanks, again, Agata Stanford

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