Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman Last Call at the Nighingale by Katharine Schellman
Series: Nightingale Mysteries #1
Published by Minotaur on June 7, 2022
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Audible
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four-stars

New York, 1924

Vivian Kelly's days are filled with drudgery, from the tenement lodging she shares with her sister to the dress shop where she sews for hours every day.

But at night, she escapes to The Nightingale, an underground dance hall where illegal liquor flows and the band plays the Charleston with reckless excitement. With a bartender willing to slip her a free glass of champagne and friends who know the owner, Vivian can lose herself in the music. No one asks where she came from or how much money she has. No one bats an eye if she flirts with men or women as long as she can keep up on the dance floor. At The Nightingale, Vivian forgets the dangers of Prohibition-era New York and finds a place that feels like home.

But then she discovers a body behind the club, and those dangers come knocking.

Caught in a police raid at the Nightingale, Vivian discovers that the dead man wasn't the nameless bootlegger he first appeared. With too many people assuming she knows more about the crime than she does, Vivian finds herself caught between the dangers of the New York's underground and the world of the city's wealthy and careless, where money can hide any sin and the lives of the poor are considered disposable...including Vivian's own.

For Vivian, dancing at the Nightingale, and the occasional free drink, is a way to escape the dullness and monotony of her life. She and her sister, Florence, barely make enough to live on as seamstresses. They live in a crowded tenement building and life is tough. This is not a glitzy, sparkling 1920s setting. The bobbed hair, bootleg liquor, and dance halls are there, but so are the poverty, racial oppression, and police raids. We see Vivian’s squalid building, but also the opulent homes of the rich.

Vivian and her best friend, Bea, a waitress at the club, find a dead man in the alley outside the back door. Vivian becomes our amateur sleuth, with a gentle nudge from Honor Huxley, the club’s owner. Honor knows how important, and deadly, information can be. The mystery has several twists and turns and the ending surprised me.

I liked the diversity in the characters and that the Nightingale was a place that allowed them to all interact, to be who they were. I liked that the women drove the plot and they each had their own strengths. Their relationships with each other were not always easy, but when push came to shove, I felt like they supported each other the best they could.

I thoroughly enjoyed Last Call at the Nightingale. I feel like I should be giving a drink pairing here, but I’m not much of a bartender.

About Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor and one-time political consultant. These days, she writes the Lily Adler Mysteries (Crooked Lane Books) and the Nightingale Mysteries (Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press). Last Call at the Nightingale is a Publishers Weekly Summer Reads Pick for 2022 and was a BookPage Most Anticipated Mystery & Suspense Book of 2022. Her debut novel, The Body in the Garden, was one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2020 and led to her being named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020. Its sequel, Silence in the Library, was praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout.” (Library Journal, starred review) Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

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