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New York Nocturne: The Return of Miss Lizzie Paperback – June 7, 2016
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Praise for Miss Lizzie
“An entertaining amalgam of memoir-cum-murder mystery that rehabilitates (however improbably) the reputation of a woman who has become an enduring legend.” —Publishers Weekly
“An entertaining narrative that mixes 1921 New England ambience, budding romance, bareknuckle fisticuffs and a suitably spooky finale.” —The New York Times
“Satterthwait does a fine job—a masterful job, one might say—with the historical scene.” —The Boston Globe
About the Author
After his second thriller, The Aegean Affair (1982), Satterthwait created his best-known character, Santa Fe private detective Joshua Croft. Beginning with Wall of Glass (1988), Satterthwait wrote five Croft novels, concluding the series with 1996’s Accustomed to the Dark. In between Croft books, he wrote mysteries starring historical figures, including Miss Lizzie (1989), a novel about Lizzie Borden, and Wilde West (1991), a western mystery starring Oscar Wilde. New York Nocturne (2016) is his most recent novel.
Top customer reviews
But the first week ends. And it ends with Burton’s rather savage murder in his apartment at the Dakota. Amanda is the only other person in the apartment at the time, and there are no indications of an intruder. The New York police (who are not depicted as zealous pursuers of the guilty), seize on Amanda as, if not a likely suspect, someone on whom they can fasten guilt. She is rescued by Morrie Lipkind, an attorney, and taken to the person who hired him, Miss Lizabeth Borden, in her suite at the Algonquin. Miss Lizzie decides that it is imperative to conduct an investigation of the murder, to forestall any further actions by the police. With Lipkind’s assistance, the assistance of Robert (Lipkind’s chauffer, etc.), PI Carl Leibowitz, and Cutter (who is something of a mystery), they begin.
They move in the real New York, against a backdrop of the people who inhabited it, including Arnold Rothstein and Dorothy Parker. As the investigation, proceeds……well, as this conversation between Miss Lizzie and Amanda suggests. Miss Lizzie speaks:
“It might, however, be wisest to withhold judgment until you know the complete truth.”
“But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We can’t ever know the complete truth.”
“Yes,” she said, and smiled. “That is indeed the whole point.”
This is am immaculately constructed and written book, with what has actually transpired being revealed slowly. The climactic scenes (there are two) would both make great theater and do make great reading.
Whether Miss Lizzie returns for a third installment, I suspect, and sincerely hope, that we have not read the last of Amanda Burton. If you have not yet read New York Nocturne, go to your local bookstore, or get on your computer, and buy it now. Amazon asks us to give a book from 0 to 5 stars. I want to give this one 6 starts. You will not be disappointed.
It is perhaps a cliché to say that a setting functions as a character in a story, but in "New York Nocturne," the city really is a living, breathing entity, complete with speakeasies, department stores, crowded sidewalks, glittering train stations, deliciously decadent night clubs (including the Cotton Club), gangsters, crooked cops and crooked politicians, and handsome detectives. Satterthwait is so good with characters that even his throw-away people are memorable, like the party goers at a Harlem rent party that appears in exactly one scene or the glitterati like George Raft (still a young song-and-dance man) and Mae West who appear again, just once, but memorably.
Of course, it's the main characters who occupy us the most, and here again, Satterthwait surrounds us with 1920s New York, from the gangster Arnold Rothstein (with whom Miss Lizzie plays a fateful game of poker) to Miss Lizzie's incomparable neighbor, Dorothy Parker (whose dialogue Satterthwait writes with admirable aplomb, as he did that of Oscar Wilde in "Wilde West"). These are characters so vital, so precise, and so vividly portrayed that you can't help casting them in your mind, from the dark and craggy Cutter (think Vincent Spano) to the oddly hairless Carl Liebowitz (whom I cast as Zeljko Ivanek, although the character in the book is much younger). Satterthwait is a genius at depicting characters. In "Masquerade," his novel set in 1920s Paris, his portraits of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway are achingly funny. In "New York Nocturne" he creates portraits equally as deft and just as varied. But it's the sixteen-year-old Amanda and the sixty-ish Miss Lizzie who capture our attention — and our hearts. If you can, read "Miss Lizzie" first, but if you'll read only one, read "New York Nocturne." I've read them both several times and love them both, but I just adore New York Nocturne."
If you've never read Walter Satterthwait, "New York Nocturne" is a nice place to start. I've read all his books several times (except for the first two, which he doesn't like and characterizes as basically amateurish, being, after all, first tries). Actually, to be fair, I've read all of his books many times. He's one of my favorite authors for binge reading. Unlike more popular writers, Satterthwait never wrote a long series of books about one set of characters. His longest series comprises the Joshua Croft books, set in New Mexico. Then there's the three book series about two Pinkerton detectives, set in 1920's Europe: "Escapade" set in England (which is, appropriately, a locked-room mystery so popular at the time), "Masquerade" set in Paris and certainly one of his funniest books, and the dark and dangerous "Cavalcade" set in Germany where the two detectives are hired to investigate the attempted assassination of a rising political figure — Adolph Hitler. Another of his historical mysteries is "Wilde West," set in the midst of Oscar Wilde's tour of America, where it appears a serial killer is stalking the tour group. Of course, if you include Oscar Wilde among your characters, you have to write Wildean dialogue, and Satterthwait succeeds admirably (I should know; as an English major and theater-goer I've read and seen a lot of Wilde).
Walter Satterthwait writes with a dexterity and precision that are absolutely dazzling and his research is impeccable. In one of the Joshua Croft books he describes each step in converting a Chevy into a low-rider; in "Masquerade" he recreates a hilarious scene of a bumbling Hemingway attending a soiree at Gertrude Stein's left-bank house. In "New York Nocturne" he even introduces us to one story of the origin of the term "86." To read a Satterthwait book is to immerse yourself fully in story and setting, such as the 1920s Massachusetts beach colony in "Miss Lizzie," and, when you finish the book, all you really want to do is start it again. Walter Satterthwait is one of my favorite writers. I stumbled upon the first books I read by accident when I inherited my ex-husband's library and I count it as one of the luckiest accidents of my life.
"New York Nocturne" stands as a novel written by a master at the height of his powers. It's clever, funny, erudite, poignant, and compelling. It's one of the best books Satterthwait has written and it's well worth your time. Read it.
Mr. Satterthwait's characters have character. And although this one has an ending not unlike the first, I do hope we'll see more.
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However, the author never managed to capture my attention nor was he able to create the New York City of the...Read more