Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review - Downtown Strut


Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber Mystery

By: Ed Ifkovic
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: August 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0155-4
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 2013

The year is 1927, and Manhattan is all the rage. At that time, New York City was the place to be. There are shows to see and people to meet all the time. Miss Edna Ferber, author of books and short stories, is a resident of Manhattan and has just come home from a trip to Philadelphia where she was present at tryouts for a musical interpretation of her novel Show Boat; which was to open on Broadway in a few weeks. She decides to return to New York and get in a bit of rest and relaxation before opening night.

Upon arrival, she finds her apartment filled with young people who are aspiring writers and friends of her housekeeper’s son. Broadway is booming with new plays and people and actors who are becoming a part of the Roaring Twenties Harlem Renaissance and Revival; this includes the Jazz Clubs that are popping up bringing talented young ‘negroes’ to get recognition for their music. Edna has been mentoring some of the young men and women who are part of this movement including her housekeeper’s son, Waters Turpin. She meets Roddy Parsons, who has recently tried out for the ‘Negro Chorus’ of Show Boat and is on her way to Harlem to take Roddy to lunch to discuss his career. When she arrives, she finds the body of Roddy Parsons, stabbed to death.

Who murdered Roddy? There are the writers who meet at Edna’s apartment, among them Bella Davenport, a beautiful girl, who has eyes for all the boys; Ellie Payne, a jazz singer; Freddy Holder, a trouble maker of the first order; and Lawson Hicks, Bella’s boyfriend. There is also Jed Harris, the young producer of The Royal Family, all of Broadway loves him but he is a notoriously cruel man. With her housekeeper and son and the help of poet Langston Hughes, Edna sets out to find Roddy’s killer. This is a fun read and many will be looking for the previous Edna Ferber mysteries. Edna is a fascinating character, one who was never married but could really write about families. In one of her books Dawn O’Hara the character of an Aunt stated: “Being an old maid was a great deal like death by drowning – a really delightful sensation when you ceased struggling.”

Quill says: This novel is a great story including both fictional and non-fictional characters who will stay with you for a long time.