Stephen Spotswood


Pentecost and Parker: Fortune Favors the Dead (2020), Murder Under Her Skin (2021)

Pentecost and Parker

Fortune Favors the Dead (2020)

Fortune Favors the DeadSet in New York in 1945.

Will Parker ran away to join the circus, to escape her abusive father. But an event one night in 1942 in NYC changes everything, and she ends up working for Lillian Pentecost, a private investigator.

“I trust you to use your best judgment. Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable doing.”

“You realize I used to dress up like a showgirl and have knives thrown at my face. My threshold for uncomfortable is pretty high.”

Lillian Pentecost is very good at what she does, but she is no longer able to easily do all the more active parts of her job.

I’d had a cousin who got that kind of hitch in her voice. Had a limp, too, though hers was a lot worse. I suspected that leaping up and clubbing a man wasn’t in Lillian Pentecost’s repertoire.

A year previously, Al Collins committed suicide. Now his widow has been murdered–and found in a locked room.

It’s 1945, and although Ms Pentecost and Will are good at their jobs, they are still in a male-dominated world.

I crossed my legs, and he glanced down to take in an eyeful. He wasn’t quick about it either. When he looked back up, our eyes met, and he knew he’d been caught. He didn’t even blink. Just gave a little what-are-ya-gonna-do smile.

It’s a decent mystery, and a fascinating look at that time period. I’ve read mysteries written in that time period, and I the language differences are very interesting. It’s got the language of the time, but the story has things you would not have found in a book written then–primarily LGBT characters and a somewhat frank attitude towards sex.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is interesting.

Publisher: Vintage Crime
Rating: 7.5/10

Murder Under Her Skin (2021)

Murder Under Her SkinSet in NYC and rural VA in 1946.

Will has been working for Ms. Pentecost for more than a year now, and is enjoying becoming a private investigator.

But when Will gets a telegram from her old boss–Big Bob Halloway–asking to look into the death of one of the Tattooed Woman–Ruby Donner, because one of their own, Valentin Kalishenko, was being held for the crime.

With no blood pumping through it, Ruby’s flesh had gone the sickly pale of the dead. Without that rosy background glow, the ink of her tattoos stood out brilliantly, floating on top of her skin like leaves on a pond.

The case is complicated because Ruby was from the town, and the police would prefer to blame one of the circus people rather than one of their neighbors, while the circus people feel as if one of their own is getting railroaded for a crime he didn’t commit, because the police weren’t interested in looking any further.

So Will and Ms. Pentecost head south.

I didn’t think the guy who’d gotten labeled the “Sheffield Valley Rooster Thief” was a good candidate for murder or attempted arson.

The writing is good, I love Will, and nothing is straight or easy. It’s not just about crime in the 1940s, but also looks at racism and queer lives.

So I look forward to another entry in the series.

Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: 8/10