Sprawled along the sofa, a red bandanna cinched across her mouth, her hands tightly tied behind her back, Marcy Fleming stared at the strawberry cupcake.
Standing on the opposite of the coffee table, he saw the terror in her blue eyes and he recognized it. He had felt it many times himself. Although not, of course, for years…
He had known there would be pleasure. Mixed with business, to be sure. mixed with very serious business. But he had definitely known there would be pleasure. He simply hadn’t expected it to begin so early in the game.
Well, well. Live and learn.
The front page of the New York Times, May 26, 1935, carried notice of the passing of one Mrs. Emily Davies Vanderbilt Thayer Whitfield. Observers of the social scene in the United States in the seven decades since the great depression will certainly recognize the Vanderbilt name. If they happen to be readers of mystery fiction and especially its sub-genre known as “the hard-boiled school,” — the style more or less invented by the great Dashielle Hammett in the early 1920s — they might also recognize the name of Emily’s final husband as Black Mask star Raoul Whitfield, primarily a pulp magazine scribe who was also certainly, for a period in the mid- to late-1920s, the most highly paid mystery writer in the country. He got his start, after serving in the Army Air Corps during the latter part of WWI, by writing dozens of “air combat” tales for that very popular sub-genre of pulp magazine; then, having developed a very staccato, “hard-boiled” style of his own, moved on into the even more lucrative crime fiction magazines, the apex of which was, of course, Black Mask.
The Lizzie Borden Novels
It has been thirty years since a Massachusetts jury acquitted Lizzie Borden of brutally murdering her father and stepmother. Now, at the start of the 1920s, she’s an aging spinster living a quiet, secluded life by the New England seashore.
Young Amanda Burton has heard all the stories, but nothing can dissuade her from spending time with the lonely old woman next door who shows her card tricks and smells of cigars. At age thirteen, Amanda’s been left to her own devices during a rather dull and swelteringly summer-long family vacation, and Miss Lizzie is the perfect distraction.
But when Amanda stumbles upon her own despised stepmother’s corpse, the brutal crime seems eerily similar to a certain double axe-slaying in Fall River three decades earlier. Naturally the whole town immediately suspects Lizzie. The local police, though, are open-minded enough to consider Amanda’s brother and father to be viable suspects as well.
To help her young friend and clear her own name (again), Lizzie must sharpen her sleuthing skills to find a fiendish killer with an axe to grind.
Sixteen-year-old Amanda Burton is thrilled to be spending the summer in New York City at her glamorous uncle John’s apartment in the Dakota while her parents are off visiting Tibet. It’s 1924, the decade is roaring, and she’s out on the town every night with her father’s flamboyant younger brother—seeing Broadway shows, going to fancy restaurants and speakeasies, meeting John’s rich and famous friends, and even an occasional gangster.
It’s all great fun—until the morning she stumbles upon her uncle dead on the floor with a hatchet blade buried in his skull. And with Amanda as the prime murder suspect, the New York City cops consider the case as good as closed.
Luckily the hapless teen has an old ally in town: the infamous—albeit acquitted—alleged axe murderess Lizzie Borden. Miss Lizzie and her new pal, the renowned acerbic wit Dorothy Parker, are on the job faster than you can say, “Forty whacks.” But trolling the glittering New York night scene and underworld for a killer can be a dangerous occupation for an old lady with a shady past, a sharp-witted literary icon, and a teenager with a history of violently losing relatives—especially when they keep turning up dead bodies.
The Joshua Croft Novels
Private investigator Joshua Croft never expected to see Daniel Begay again after he helped the elderly Native American fend off a group of abusive rednecks. But now the old man has come to Croft’s Santa Fe office with a bizarre request: He wants the detective to recover human bones that have been missing since 1925.
The skeleton of Ganado, a Navajo warrior, was stolen decades earlier by Dennis Lessing, who found them while he was searching for oil on sacred Native American land. Less than a month later, Lessing was killed, and Ganado’s bones have not been seen since.
What at first seems like a relatively harmless—if hopeless—pursuit grows graver by the hour, as Croft’s search takes him from the halls of an El Paso university to the hard lands of the Navajo Reservation. But when his digging into the past starts to uncover other skeletons besides Ganado’s, Croft may be the next one to fall victim to someone desperate enough to kill to keep secrets buried.
As an associate at Santa Fe’s Mondragon Detective Agency, Joshua Croft has heard a lot of strange proposals. But nothing stranger than when a cowboy comes in and asks him to help fence a stolen $100,000 necklace. Thinking he has a deal with Croft, the cowboy leaves as mysteriously as he arrived. The next day he turns up dead, riddled with bullets, and the insurance company that already settled the claim for the necklace’s wealthy owners wants Croft’s beautiful, wheelchair-bound boss, Rita Mondragon, and her agency to get the missing jewelry back.
As Croft starts to dig into the slain cowboy’s seedier, more sinister associates as well as the private lives of a privileged family with enough skeletons in their closets to populate a graveyard, he uncovers a lot more than some stolen jewels: pornography, drugs, Native American grave robbing, and multiple murders. Now he just has to stay alive long enough to put all the pieces together .
After a particularly nasty divorce, Melissa, the ex-wife of actor Roy Alonzo, accused the handsome TV star of abusing their daughter. Then she took their child and disappeared.
Santa Fe private investigator Joshua Croft has no real desire to get entangled in the sordid lives of Hollywood’s rich and famous. But a Santa Fe underworld kingpin happens to be Alonzo’s uncle and has requested Croft’s help, an offer that’s tough to refuse.
The closer Croft gets to the truth about the shocking Alonzo affair, the more urgent finding the missing mother and child becomes—especially after Melissa’s sister is killed. Croft suspects this murder could have something to do with Melissa’s association with the group Sanctuary and its refugees from Central American terror. Or perhaps it’s connected to a clandestine rescue group that protects battered wives and children.
Either way, the situation gets bleaker by the hour, with a less-than-trustworthy FBI agent impeding Croft’s investigation and even more disappearances and deaths. Apparently the adversaries in this dark affair mean serious business, and time is running out for the runaways—and perhaps for the private detective who’s on their trail as well.
Thirteen prominent members of Santa Fe’s New Age spiritualism community attended a meeting at the home of a couple of enthusiastic devotees. Only twelve of them survived it.
Private investigator Joshua Croft prides himself on his even-handed, eminently rational approach to crime solving. So he feels like a fish out of water surrounded by a motley group of true believers in the wacky and weird. But someone in this bizarre crowd murdered self-styled magic-doer Quentin Bouvier, hanging him from the ceiling rafters with a scarf belonging to Tarot card reader Giacamo Bernardi. And Bernardi’s attorney wants Croft to bring the real killer to justice.
Perhaps Bouvier’s slaying had something to do with a very rare and expensive antique Tarot card that the hanged man recently purchased, which is now—unsurprisingly—missing. However, getting down-to-earth answers from people who occupy a different reality won’t be easy. But when more New Agers suddenly depart this mortal plane, Croft needs to up the ante to catch a killer who’s not playing with a full deck.
Rita Mondragon is lying comatose and near death in a Santa Fe hospital, and her normally even-tempered partner and paramour, private detective Joshua Croft, is on a razor’s edge. This is the second time Rita’s been shot by Ernie Martinez—the first was years ago when he killed her husband and put Rita in a wheelchair—and now the recently escaped convict is on the run with his equally twisted cellmate Luiz Lucero.
Despite a massive police manhunt, and warnings from the FBI and the DEA to back off, Croft sets out to capture the killers himself. As the crazed convicts leave a trail of murder and destruction behind them—from New Mexico to Las Vegas to Denver and across Kansas and Texas—one by one, their pursuers drop by the wayside. Suddenly a strange twist of fate has left only one man hunter remaining—Joshua Croft—in a breathtaking kill-or-be-killed climax in the Florida Everglades.
The Pinkerton Novels (Phil and Jane)
From Kirkus Reviews:
It’s 1921, and Sir Robert Purleigh is hosting a weekend party at the family estate in Devon. The guests include writer Arthur Conan Doyle, in thrall to spiritualism; renowned medium Madame Sosostris; psychoanalyst Dr. Erik Auerbach; Lady Alice Purleigh’s cousin Marjorie Allardyce and her paid companion, Jane Turner. Famed American escape artist Harry Houdini is also a guest, accompanied by Phil Beaumont, a Pinkerton detective guarding the Great Man (as Phil always refers to him) from the threats of rival magician Chin Soo. The high point of the weekend is to be a sÇance (Houdini has vowed to unmask Sosostris as a trickster), but there’s plenty of excitement before that happens. Jane Turner runs screaming from her room the first night, swearing she’s seen the ghost of family forebear Lord Reginald. The next day a rifle shot narrowly misses a member of a group gathered outdoors, but, most disturbing of all, Lord Purleigh’s semiparalyzed father, the Earl of Axminster, kills himself in his locked suite with a gun taken, no one knows how, from a hall cabinet. There’s more, much more, all of it chronicled by Jane in letters to her friend Evy, and a race ensues between Scotland Yard’s Shakespeare-quoting Inspector Marsh and Houdini to solve the case. The solution’s as bizarre as the buildup, but no matter. Style is everything here, as the author (The Hanged Man, 1993, etc.) leisurely spins humor, history, showbiz, sex, and detection into a thoroughly civilized, thoroughly pleasurable entertainment.
From Kirkus Reviews
The official verdict on poet/publisher Richard Forsythe and his latest amoureuse, Sabine von Stuben, is that their deaths were the result of a suicide pact in their bolted Paris hotel room. But Richard’s mother back in the States doesn’t believe the official verdict’she’s especially suspicious of the shooting of the hotel desk clerk soon afterward—and she hires the Pinkerton Agency to find out the truth. The Pinkertons, who don’t do things by halves, send two operatives, experienced investigator Phil Beaumont, who’ll read through police transcripts and question the witnesses, and novice Jane Turner, who’ll travel incognito as nanny to Richard’s cousins; but the company doesn—t tell either one about the other. Since Phil and Jane have already met under other circumstances (Escapade, 1995), various complications ensue. The lazy if high-spirited detective work, however, is constantly upstaged by the cast of dragonish suspects—from Richard’s man-eating widow to Sabine’s former lover to an Agatha Christie look-alike who’s been funneling donations to the infant Nazis—and a nonstop parade of period cameos that include Ernest (“call me Ernie”) Hemingway (a skirt-chasing poseur), Gertrude Stein (olympian in her vanity), James Joyce, Erik Satie, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Kay Boyle, Robert McAlmon, and some terrific French meals. A decorative, dizzying trifle—the locked-room murder is solved with insulting casualness—that’s chock-full of the stuff that made the Twenties roar.
From Publishers’ Weekly review:
The book is wonderfully rich in detail and atmosphere, offering riveting scenes in sewers and salons, as well as over-the-top cameos by Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Best of all, when Phil and Jane finally cross paths, they provide some electrifying moments. This deftly told mystery, a delightful mix of high society and the demimonde, offers readers a terrific imaginary junket.
Germany, 1923, and a new political party is on the rise, but just who is this chap Adolf Hitler and who would want to try and assassinate him in a Berlin park? As it turns out there are plenty of suspects and not even the members of his fledgling Nazi Party can be trusted, so the famous Pinkerton detective agency is called in to investigate. It is to be the most dangerous case yet to be undertaken by ‘The Pinkerton Pair’, the unlikely but endearing partnership of the wise-cracking Phil Beaumont (I was lying on the sofa, reading the Baedeker guide to southern Germany. It was a fine book, but it didn’t have much of a plot.) and the surprisingly resourceful English rose (and obsessive letter-writer) Miss Jane Turner.
A trail of murders leads the reluctant detectives from Berlin night clubs,where they encounter up-and-coming artistes called Marlene and Greta, to the Black Cat Cabaret, which offers rather more specialised entertainment, to an Institute of Sexology and then, after changing trains with a certain Mr Norris, to Bayreuth and Munich to meet, among others, Cosima and Siegfried Wagner, Rudolf Hess and Hermann Goering, accompanied by Hitler’s best friend Putzi Hanfstaengl, who may not be the genial host he pretends to be. When an unexpected – and unsavoury – encounter between Herr Hitler and Miss Turner derails the investigation, The Pinkerton Pair become the hunted not the hunters and must make a dangerous, hair-raising escape across Austria and Germany.
When Cavalcade was first published in the USA in 2005, January Magazine wrote: ‘Satterthwait is not content to dish up mere pastiche…he has something to say and he delivers the goods in spades. Cavalcade is a rip-snorting tale and a thoughtful, fascinating, hard-nosed take on one of the last century’s great evils.’
Fortunately, resourceful young Englishwoman Miss Jane Turner (“I am not only a femme fatale, I am also a Pinkerton.”) is pursuing her own angle on the investigation, and possibly pursuing Phil Beaumont in the process…
Walter Satterthwait has uncannily taken his readers to the Germany of 1923, introducing them to characters from the actual front pages of the period’s newspapers—Hanfstaengl, Rudolf Hess, and many others. As in the previous two books of this series, the crimes that Turner and Beaumont encounter are committed against a genuinely historical background. It all adds up to a suspenseful story of two likable people at risk in the treacherous atmosphere of Germany’s postwar nightmare.