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Death of a Flapper (Death by the Decade) Paperback – January 6, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Marva Dale is the pen name for author Debra McReynolds. Retired from the public relations field, Debra now spends her free time indulging in her passion for writing. "I used to fill my school notebooks with stories," Debra relates, "and then add artwork to go along with them. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Daley, predicted that I would be a writer one day."
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Joseph Amiel, author of BIRTHRIGHT and A QUESTION OF PROOF
The concept of her series is not time travel - that too frequently used technique of transporting the reader into another era. No, Marva Dale has decided to recreate various decades to set the stage for a story that not only follows the concept of drama but also brings to play a detailed sense of time and atmosphere of a certain part of our history. Taking place in the 1920s, she has done her homework thoroughly, and like a screenwriter or film director or set designer/costumer she regales us with even the most minutely accurate details of the zone of the ostentatious, jazz minded, prohibition influenced, gangster ridden zany tempo of that decade.
Marva Dale knows how to seduce the audience before the curtain goes up. In a prologue we meet Alice Prado transforming herself into her public image of the flapper Arabella Germaine. Pow! We jump into chapter one where private eye Joe C. `Carney' Brogan begins narrating the story of how Arabella is a corpse with whom he is infatuated. Arabella's mother - Lucille Prado - engages Brogan to investigate the murder of her daughter, and there begins Brogan's fantastic search for the perpetrator - who must be one of the many suspects that range from Arabella's roommate Sally, to her mentor Victor, to her endless `admirers' among whom is a wealthy Long Island resident, to clues from organized crime, to the Bowery - and to Brogan's own intuitive state as a vulnerable man who has his own passion for the Alice in Arabella. How the trail meanders through the speakeasies and lurid streets of New York and finally comes to rest because of Brogan's combination of innate skill at solving crimes combined with his sensitive personal reasons for needing resolution is what makes this story so rich in detail and at the same time just plain fine writing of Marva Dale. Technically, the book could well benefit from an editor's eagle eye: the story is too fine for the many typos and grammatical errors. But it seems as though the author has found a terrific avenue for combining the color and taste of history with fine mystery spinning. Grady Harp, April 14
Lucille Prado knows something is wrong. She hasn't heard from her daughter in two weeks, so she asks private investigator J.C. "Carney" Brogan to find Alice. In no time at all, Carney identifies Alice as Arabella Germaine-- the ultimate flapper, a gorgeous blonde who moves in all the right circles and all the right parties. Unfortunately Arabella's body has turned up at the city morgue. Under the spell of the beautiful dead girl, Carney vows to find her killer from what turns out to be a very long list of suspects-- and some of those suspects are willing to kill to keep their secrets.
Living in a small apartment in Tin Pan Alley, Carney is an engaging young man who barely makes a living from being a private investigator. Throughout his investigation, he wonders if he knows what he's doing, if he understands what's really going on in the world around him, and this soul searching of his makes Carney a character we can all identify with. As much as I liked him, I did find Carney confusing from time to time. He comes from an underprivileged background and uses a lot of the current slang when he speaks, but he can also say things like "I don't speak elitism peppered with hedonistic euphemisms!" This may signal hidden depths to this character, and I'm rather hoping that Carney shows up in the 1930s book in this Death by the Decade series so I can learn more about him.
As Carney worked to narrow the list of suspects, the author brought New York City in the 1920s to life. I was reminded of classic detective fiction from that era as I read about the private eye with a heart of gold searching for the killer of a beautiful young girl who'd fallen for the hedonistic lifestyle of her rich and corrupt friends. Death of a Flapper is a good, solid start to a new mystery series. I look forward to reading more.