Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

Last Call at the Nightingale

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Last Call at the Nightingale (2022) Katharine Schellman (Nightingale Mysteries)

Last Call at the NightingaleSet in New York City in 1924

Vivian Kelly and her sister Florence are glad to have jobs, a roof over the heads, and food on the table (even if it isn’t always enough food).

(W)orking at a dressmaker’s shop meant they both had to be fashionable at work, though not too fashionable or customers would think they were getting above themselves. Miss Ethel, the shop’s owner, preferred her seamstresses and shopgirls to look a little conservative—to counteract what she clearly believed were the loose morals of any girl without a family supporting her in the city.

But Vivian wants more, and so heads out most nights to the Nightingale, an underground speakeasy, where her best friend, Bea works, and where Viv can feel like herself when she dances.

If they had been out on the street, Vivian knew that Bea would have never spoken to the distinguished white man at all, and he would never have glanced at the Black waitress or her Irish friend, no matter how pretty they were or polite he was. But the rules could be different behind back-alley doors with no addresses.

But a body in the back alley puts everything at risk, and Viv needs to find the killer to get herself–and the Nightingale–out of danger.

It took me a bit to get into this. Primarily because I have a hard time reading historicals set in the US, because I know too much about US history and how people of color were treated, and that can be hard for me to read if the author does it correctly, but even harder for me to enjoy if the author glosses over the racism of the time as if it never happened.

Luckily for me, the author balances that perfectly. You’re aware of the racism and sexism and all the other isms and violence that the characters live with, but it doesn’t become overwhelmingly dark.

faces of all colors ended up on the dance floor, and Honor wasn’t the only woman who danced with other women. Sometimes there were two men in each other’s arms, and if anyone batted an eyelash at it, they also knew to keep their mouths shut, that night and any days after.

The story shows you the corruption and the dangers of the time.

Do you remember the obituary? It said he died of a heart ailment.” “Well, it wasn’t wrong. Getting shot in the heart’s a pretty severe ailment”

But like those who lived then, it slips into the background, and awareness of things be wrong, but the realization that despite everything you should grasp at joy and happiness when you can.

Even better, the author cites sources for the world she build, books on prohibition, the neighborhoods, jazz, and queer subculture.

Publisher: Minotaur. Cover design by David Baldeosingh Rotstein

Rating: 8.5/10


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