I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
People stumbled over their words. They blundered when it came to their feelings. Dogs always knew what to do. She could always count on a dog.
Jazz is an administrative assistant at an all girl's Catholic High School and trains cadaver dogs on the side. When helping to train a friend's dog, they actually end up finding a real human body. When Jazz realizes that she knew the girl murdered, she sets out to find who could have possibly done this.
This is first in a series that doesn't have a cliffhanger ending but will obviously continue following our central character Jazz. The story is told from her point of view and we are introduced to her detective ex-boyfriend Nick, along with her colleague best-friend, brothers, fellow cadaver dog handlers, and mother. Jazz's father died in a fire a year ago, she's dealing with the grief, along with the loss of her dog Manny, and lingering attraction to Nick.
Even with Jazz vaguely remembering Flori (the murder victim) from her going to the school Jazz works at, it seemed a bit of a stretch as to why she was going around trying to conduct her own investigation. There were even a couple of times that she tampered or withheld evidence that could have ruined Nick's investigation. The murder mystery itself threw out enough red-herrings to be interesting but some misleads ended up feeling very contrived.
“Damn.” One corner of his mouth thinned and he shook his head and followed her up the stairs. “Come on, Jazz. What we had, was it that bad?”
When she turned the key and shoved the door open, her smile was hard-edged. “ Even after all this time, you haven’t figured it out yet, have you? And I thought you were a smart guy. Don’t you get it, Nick? It wasn’t that bad. It was that good.”
The romance takes a big backseat to Jazz trying to figure out who killed Flori, Nick only appears a handful of times. We don't get any flashbacks to when they were in a relationship, it's discussed how it ended because of how their schedules never worked out. The author leaves some hope for them to get together again and the relationship will obviously be progressed further in the next book. There is some background given on Nick but his character isn't really felt, I never felt like I knew him. With this being all from Jazz's point of view, she obviously dominates and for the most part was a strong enough character to control the story, her motivations were sometimes a bit weak.
Jazz's involvement in trying to catch Flori's murderer was somewhat shaky but the mystery was stirring enough to keep me reading. The romance between her and Nick was extremely anemic and more of a tease to lead you to read the next to see if they can make time for each other. Jazz's world was sketched out enough to set a solid foundation for the series, I would have liked even more of her side job with working with cadaver dogs. This was a fair starter book to a series, hoping the next in the series colors in the sketching.
This book is about Josephine Baker pre-WWII, so the bit about her helping the French Resistance isn't here. Her cheetah is, however.
Told in lyrics that read like jazz, the story of Baker's young life and start in stardom is related without fanfare, yet the racism that she faced is presented quite clearly. The art matches the setting.
It is quite wonderful.
I am a big fan of Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, as an author, a blogger, and I was lucky to discover her blog a few years back, and although I missed some of her early serials at the time of their initial conception, I have managed to catch up with them over time. I have also read her novel, Atonement, Tennessee (you can check my review here) and know that apart from an imagination that knows no bounds, and a love of period research and attention to detail, she has a way with words and can create magical characters that readers get to care for and make them live through situations that never fail to surprise us and keep us on tenterhooks.
As she explains in her description, she has been running a number of serials on her blog, pantser style. She asks her readers for things and/or ingredients, and she makes up a story that keeps developing as her imagination, and the things and ingredients, dictate. I am in awe at her creativity and I must recommend her blog (Teagan’s Books), as I know she is working on her next serial (and her process of creation is totally interactive).
Many of her readers (I included) kept telling her we would like to have the option of having her serials in book format, and eventually, she relented. I have reviewed her first serial in book format, Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story (you can read my review here) and many of the things I said about the previous book can be applied to this one. This is another light, fun, and fast book, with the same protagonist, Pip, a young woman, a flapper (as she keeps reminding herself and us, because being modern at the time was not an easy task), who, on this occasion, is sent to stay with her grandmother, Granny Phanny (she is a fabulous character, and although she would hate to be called a flapper, she is an utterly modern woman) in Savannah so she can learn how to cook. That helps introduce the ingredients part of the story, and the culinary theme adds a layer of interest to the story, although I would advise not to read the book when you’re very hungry, because although sometimes the ingredients don’t end up in a dish, they often do, and they all sound delicious.
Pip, who narrates the story in the first person, is recovering from a heartache and meets a cast of wonderful characters, from a family of Chinese restaurateurs, to a vet and his doctor wife, G-men, police officers, mobsters, and there is even a paranormal element in the story. Oh, and let’s not forget a collection of pets that will warm your hearts and make you laugh.
Pip’s language remains as peculiar as usual, and the author seamlessly includes the popular and fashionable expressions of the era in her book. I challenge readers not to end up using some of them, especially some of Pip’s favourites.
I recommended readers of the previous serial to play a game and try and imagine in which direction they would send the story, or how they would use the three things at the beginning of each chapter. You can do the same here, and if you’re fond of cooking, I’m sure you will have fun exploring possible ways of using the ingredients, both to cook and to advance the story. And by the end of the book, you’ll be amazed at how the author has managed to create a cohesive story from such diverse elements.
I recommend this book to readers with a sense of fun and play who enjoy a fast and light mystery (cozy style. No explicit violence, although there is violence, no sex scenes) set in the Jazz Age (oh, don’t forget to follow the author’s blog if you enjoy that historical period as she shares a post on the subject every Wednesday), with charming characters and great food. And even if you don’t have a lot of time to read for long stretches at a time, as the serial was created to be read a chapter per week, it is very easy to follow the story and not get lost. So, there is no excuse!
"And jazz- it didn't sing sweetly, like the music he'd been raised on. It shouted out, fierce to lift the weariest spirit. It could own a fellow's soul if he let it- and even if he didn't "
I wish I could hear that jazz, played in clubs in New York at that time.
It's one of those books whose characters I want to know personally.
I wanted to listen to Sutton play, go wander the streets at 2 am with Jack, go to their parties and have a drink with them. I wanted to have a friend like Harry...
The author has done an amazing job composing the setting, building masterfully a character at a time when PTSD did not even exist as an idea, when free jazz and "Dixieland" did not hold the significance they do now, and the Prohibition knocking on the door.
This is my favorite book by Tamara Allen and for some strange reason while I read I remembered Palahniuk's words describing the world we live in now :
" We're the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives "
Whistling in the dark is that one work that made me want to time travel and shake the hands of those characters, who've lived and experienced all that we / for better or worse / can never have