Deco Dames, Demon Rum and Death Book Review

Reporter Jazz Cross would rather work the police beat than go to boring society functions, but she can’t convince her bosses at the Galveston Gazette to give her a break. Instead, they have her interview a fortune teller, Madame Farushka. Jazz thinks the woman is a fake, but Mrs. Harper, her immediate boss, isn’t convinced. Thankfully, she and Nathan, the paper’s photographer, learn about some grave robbers, and decide to stake out the cemetery to see if they can catch them in the act. But what they find just makes them more suspicious.

Before Jazz can call Prohibition Agent James Burton about what she’s seen, Mrs. Harper sends her to a hotel, where there have been reports of a ghost haunting the fifth floor. The sad story of a ghost bride who, believing her groom had drowned in a sailing accident, waded into the ocean near the hotel and killed herself. A guest staying at the hotel swears the ghost has been in her room. Jazz decides to get Lily, the guest, together with Madame Farushka, who is excited to try out something new: a Ouija board. But when they “contact” the ghost, the word “murder” is spelled out to the shock of the guests.

A second night at the cemetery with Nathan has them running for their lives and straight to Burton. As Jazz and Nathan continue to dig for information, someone near and dear to Jazz is suddenly in danger. She discovers that Madame Farushka, the ghost bride, the dead body and the booze are all connected. When the fortune teller starts acting strange and mysterious, Jazz wonders if she’s been played for a fool. As things come to a frothy head, will Jazz be able to put all of the pieces together before she’s snuffed out forever?

I’m not big on historical mysteries, but I thoroughly enjoyed Deco Dames. I chuckled at the thought of Jazz and Nathan in a high speed chase in a rusty Model T, racing at 25 mph through the streets of Galveston. Ms. Collier did an excellent job of painting a picture of the 1920s, when Prohibition was in full swing. I could imagine the clothes, the hats, the manual typewriters, the elegance and the rough neighborhoods. I have already purchased the first three books in the series, and intend to go back and read them. An excellent book!

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).

She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts and visits Galveston whenever possible.

“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally, I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.”

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