New York Nocturne – Walter Satterthwait

Poor Lizzie Borden. Guilty or not, she went through at least a couple of flavors of hell in her life, and now she’s fair game for any novelist who wants an added soupcon of a certain kind of badassery in their plot.

That being said, I quite enjoyed this. I’m not sure I loved it enough to go hunt down the first book or keep watch for the next one, but I did like it.

Amanda Burton is a teenaged girl who is sent off to spend the summer with her uncle in New York. He lives at the Dakota, and if you don’t think “John Lennon” every time you read that, I have nothing else for you. And this opens the door for some nice snippets about New York in the 20’s, like the origin for the term to “eighty-six” something and … well, Dorothy Parker. I’m always leery of real people being drafted into people’s fiction, but that’s mostly because it’s so often done badly. This wasn’t done badly.

“Robert. My chauffeur. … He packs a rod.”
“I’ll bet he does,” said Mrs. Parker. Mr. Lipkind turned to her. Innocently, she said, “I mean, you’d expect him to carry a gun, wouldn’t you?”

One more quote: “‘Brave?’ Mrs. Parker laughed, sounding somewhat frayed. ‘My sphincter was plucking buttons off the car seat.'” Heh.

There’s another little cameo which was kind of sweet (as in sweeeeeet, not awwww) Mae West, in case I forget: “Her small, voluptuous body was tightly sheathed in a glistening black silk gown that left her arms and her pale round shoulders bare. It also left bare a large percentage of her chest, which itself took up a large percentage of her body.”.

So the upshot is that Amanda and her young, handsome, and wealthy uncle basically paint the town red for a few days … until she finds him murdered in his library. I have to say, this was actually hard to read, because I liked him. There was a little uneasiness about him taking a girl of her age to night clubs and speakeasies, and about her being allowed into said, and also about her wandering New York alone – but taking it at face value (nice young guy treating a niece he likes spending time with to a nice long good time, and New York City was probably in many ways safer for a girl to wander about in?), and the fact that Amanda and the reader meet Uncle John at the same time, means that she and the reader are gutted to much the same extent when he is brutally murdered.

And then Miss Lizzie (“Lizbeth, not Elizabeth”) Borden comes swooping in to help, and the two of them – with the help of Miss Lizzie’s lawyer and Mrs. Parker – get to work investigating the murder, because the corrupt (seriously nasty) police have decided to hang it on Amanda.

Some of the feats this team performs are a little improbable – but it works, because Miss Lizzie is, shall we say, badass. And Amanda isn’t … normal. Perhaps because she’s gone through a number of tragedies already in her young life, or perhaps because of some chemical or hormonal lack in her, she is cool, logical, and much, much smarter than your average bear. They make a formidable team.

Maybe I will go look out that first book, after all.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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