The first historical mystery in award-winning author Mary Miley’s 1920s Chicago-set series introduces reluctant sleuth Maddie Pastore and takes readers into a dark and dangerous world of mobsters, speakeasies and seances.
It’s 1924, and Maddie Pastore has it made. A nice house, a loving husband with a steady job – even if it is connected to Chicago’s violent Torrio-Capone gang – and a baby on the way. But then Tommy is shot dead, and she learns her husband had a secret that turns her life upside down.
Penniless and grieving, Maddie is only sure of two things: that she will survive for the sake of her baby, and that she’ll never turn to the mob for help. So when she’s invited to assist a well-meaning but fraudulent medium, she seizes the chance. She’s not proud of her work investigating Madam Carlotta’s clients, but she’s proud of how well she does it.
When Maddie unearths potential evidence of a dark crime, however, she faces a terrible dilemma: keep quiet and let a murderer go unpunished, or follow the trail and put herself and her baby in mortal danger . . .
With its Prohibition-era setting, lively characters and enthralling historical detail, The Mystic’s Accomplice is an ideal pick for readers who enjoy 1920s-set mysteries.
I read a couple of novels by Mary Miley from a different series set in 1920s Hollywood, so I knew she is a great researcher. I was expecting an enjoyable story with lots of historical details, and I wasn’t disappointed.
This new series is set in Chicago in the 1920s but has a very different premise. Not an actress, this time, but a shill for a medium, though Meggie is the same kind of woman as Miley’s other series: independent, intuitive, clever and worldly.
I liked the basic idea of the medium and her work. Madame Carlotta is a good woman who truly believes she’s gifted, and Maggie and Freddy go along with her because they know she never deceives people. She actually tried to help them in every way she can, and often she manages to do it.
As a shill, Maggie has to learn as much about Madam Carlotta’s clients as she can. I found the details about this part of the jobs and the different stage tricks very interesting. Also, I can see how Maggie may pass from being a shill to being an investigator. She learns to dig into people’s lives for her job, and she’s very good at it. She also learns very quickly how to get information from people without looking too nosy. She’s a great character.
The mystery – well, that wasn’t so great. But I think part of the ‘problem’ is that this is an introductory story. It is clearly the beginning of a series, and although the mystery is there, it seems just the excuse to introduce characters and situations. Outside the mystery, the story presents many loose ends at the end, which gives away its nature, I think.
The mystery is very mundane, there’s nothing extravagant about it, and I actually appreciated it. This is a story of common people and common lives, and I like this. It’s a great portrayal of how life was for so many Americans in the 1920s. But it was maybe a bit too obvious and simple. I was disappointed by the way it unfolded because it was quite easy to catch the culprit, and the ending was a bit abrupt and a bit too convenient.
But all in all, it wasn’t a great problem.
I enjoyed it. It was a nice read.
The Mystic’s Accoplice
Satisfied, she nodded and twisted her biggest ring for a few moments before continuing. ‘The spirits speak through me. Sometimes their words aren’t very intelligible, and in those cases, Freddy helps make the words clearer.’
I looked at Freddy. Not a flicker of expression crossed that pale face.
‘How?’ I asked, becoming more confused as the conversation went on. Did she honestly believe she had psychic powers? Was it possible she really did? Spiritualists thought authentic mediums could reach the souls of the dead in the Spirit World, but even believers realized that many of those who boasted about having such powers were frauds. The most famous Spiritualist in the world, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was a man of stern honesty and intelligence, and a medical doctor on top of that. His beliefs were unshakable. That was about all I knew when it came to Spiritualism. I had never met anyone who had actually contacted the dead. Spiritualism had always seemed to me like a religion for the rich.
Madame Carlotta ignored my question – she wasn’t about to give away the store on my first day at work. ‘After we’ve finished with Tommy’s messages, you’ll make the appropriate comments about how happy you are to communicate with his spirit, and we’ll move on to the Adler sisters. Their note said they wanted to ask their father about investing their inheritance. We’ll see what their father has to say on that topic. Then, when all the spirits have departed and Archangel Michael has left us, I’ll collect any donations and retire upstairs to rest. You have no idea how exhausting it is to connect to the Great Beyond. The strain leaves me weak for hours. You will go out with the sisters and tell them how pleased you are with my success, and if need be, encourage them to come again, when I can do a better job for them. Without being too obvious, naturally.’
‘Séances seldom last beyond an hour or two, but with the spirits, one never knows.’
Freddy still refused to meet my eyes.
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