Book Review: Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper by Ana Brazil

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Title: Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper
Series: A New Orleans Gilded Age Mystery #1
Author: Ana Brazil
Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2017
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper
A New Orleans Gilded Age Mystery #1
Ana Brazil
Sand Hill Review Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-937818-63-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Gilded Age New Orleans is overrun with prostitutes, pornographers, and a malicious Jack the Ripper copycat. As threatening letters to newspaper editors proclaim, no woman is safe from his blade.

Desperate to know who murdered her favorite student, ambitious typewriting teacher Fanny Newcomb launches into a hunt for the self-proclaimed Irish Channel Ripper.

Fanny quickly enlists her well-connected employers—Principal Sylvia Giddings and her sister Dr. Olive—to help, and the women forge through saloons, cemeteries, slums, and houses of prostitution in their pursuit.

Fanny’s good intentions quickly infuriate her longtime beau Lawrence Decatur, while her reckless persistence confounds the talented police detective Daniel Crenshaw. Reluctantly, Lawrence and Daniel also lend their investigative talents to Fanny’s investigation.

As the murderer sets a date for his next heinous crime, can Fanny Newcomb and her crew stop the Irish Channel Ripper before he kills again?

In yet another foray into the world of young women in historical times who flaunt the “rules” of the day and pursue lives of their own creation, Fanny Newcomb enters the scene. Fanny is a bright, appealing teacher of immigrant women, attempting to help them attain better lives in a city that has its own brand of shadiness.

Fanny doesn’t believe it when Karl, a German carpenter of her acquaintance is accused of murdering Nora, an Irish prostitute (maybe) and one of Fanny’s favorite students. Neither her beau or the local police detective want to really listen to what she has to say so Fanny enlists the aid of her employers, the Giddings sisters, to make their way through the seediest and most dangerous parts of New Orleans in search of the truth, eventually gaining a little help from the reluctant Lawrence Decatur and Detective Daniel Crenshaw.

Fanny and the sisters, Olive and Sylvia, are a smart and endearing trio and I thoroughly enjoyed their intrepid adventures in pursuit of justice. They’re especially appealing in their determination to live life by their own rules rather than being hemmed in by the ruthless requirements of the Victorian period and I also appreciated the author’s skillful evocation of New Orleans in its wild and wooly days. I really hope that more adventures are to come.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

About the Author

A native of California, Ana Brazil lived in the south for many years. She earned her MA in American history from Florida State University and traveled her way through Mississippi as an architectural historian. Ana loves fried mullet, Greek Revival colonnades, and Miss Welty’s garden. She has a weakness for almost all things New Orleans. (Although she’s not sure just how it happened…but she favors bluegrass over jazz.)

The Fanny Newcomb stories celebrate the tenacity, intelligence, and wisdom of the dozens of courageous and outrageous southern women that Ana is proud to call friends.

Although Ana, her husband, and their dog Traveller live in the beautiful Oakland foothills, she is forever drawn to the lush mystique of New Orleans, where Fanny Newcomb and her friends are ever prepared to seek a certain justice.

For more information, please visit Ana Brazil’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads.

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Giveaway

A paperback copy of Fanny Newcomb
and the Irish Channel Ripper

Enter here.


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Book Review: The White Dress by Denise Buckley

The White DressThe White Dress
Denise Buckley
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., November 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62857-506-4
Trade Paperback

The author of this enthralling historical novel is English. The novel begins in 1886, but its style is slightly off and definitely modern. “Nellie listened to see who had arrived and recognized Master Edward’s cousin Abigail. Nellie listened intently to the conversation when she heard Master Edward’s voice.” Direct, straightforward, many many short declarative sentences.

The novel deals with highly emotional sometimes turbulent incidents for which the almost neutral tone seems to work quite well. The plot is fairly simple but laded with more than a few twists and surprises. A young prostitute grabs an opportunity and steals an infant girl from a briefly untended carriage on the street of Ulverston, Lancashire, England. The baby grows up, has many adventures and the details of her parentage are ultimately resolved. The novel is a coming-of-age love story that looks with a critical but loving eye at the conditions of the lower classes in early Twentieth Century England and at the relationships of the classes during that period.

One is instantly drawn to Nellie and many of the other characters amid a desire to see them all succeed, something not possible, of course. Nellie’s personality develops in foreseeable steps as she dodges calamities and strides resolutely into her future. It is the ways in which she deals with both adversity and success that makes it necessary for us to continue reading to the elusive end.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Every Last PromiseEvery Last Promise
Kristin Halbrook
HarperTeen, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-212128-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn’t supposed to. But she hasn’t told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla’s coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.

On the surface, this is a story about the aftermath of rape—and so it is—but it’s also a story about how there can be more victims beyond the person who suffers the actual assault. Those peripheral victims need to cope in a different sort of way and the guilt they feel can be enormous, guilt that they could have done something more, guilt that they might do the wrong thing after the fact, guilt that they’ve kept secrets, maybe even guilt that someone else was the one attacked. These people are survivors in their own way, certainly not lessening the impact of the true victim’s pain and recovery, but survivors nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Kayla is not the heroic figure we would like her to be and it’s very easy to decide that she’s a coward, more interested in her own well-being than anyone else’s. That actually is true but I think it’s important to acknowledge that many of us, myself included, have looked the other way at least once in our lives. Can we honestly say that we’re “better” than Kayla is?

Ms. Halbrook‘s intent is laudable and I wish I could have connected with Kayla in a more positive way but her narcissism is just a bit too overwhelming. Yes, I understood her but I didn’t care much about her. Still, the author has an important message and I hope this book will end up encouraging others to stand forth when circumstances call for it. In the meantime, I believe this author is one worth watching and I’ll be reading more by her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

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Conspiracy of Blood and SmokeConspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Anne Blankman
Balzer + Bray, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-227884-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

My appetite for young adult World War II-era fiction was sharpened when I was introduced to a wonderful book by Elizabeth Wein and I’ve been on the lookout for more ever since that one. The first book by Anne Blankman, Prisoner of Night and Fog, captured my attention in a very good way and I was really excited when  I heard about this sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. While I don’t think it has quite the intensity of Prisoner, it still kept me engrossed till the very end.

The years leading up to war are uncomfortable everywhere but Gretchen and Daniel really do think they have found a haven of peace in England and so, in a fashion, they have. Away from Uncle Dolf, Gretchen has a chance at a happy life and Daniel is a large part of that. Chance, though, has an ugly way of wreaking havoc and Daniel soon finds that he has no choice but to return to Germany, having no idea, of course, that he is about to be in even graver damage than he expected.

Gretchen and Daniel are an interesting pair. At times, they seem oblivious to the dangers facing them at nearly every turn but, at the same time, they have a certain gravity about them. Most teens in earlier generations must have been less frivolous than we see so frequently today for a lot of reasons including shorter life expectancy, poorer health, more manual labor and so on. In 1933, we have to add in a growing awareness that bad things might be happening in Germany, fueled by the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Hitler rose to power in part because of the need Germans had to rise above their massive discontent and only a few were able to see past his charisma to the nascent evil behind the facade. That Ms. Blankman has given her characters the opportunity to understand what was happening is powerful but I’m glad she also lets these teens make mistakes and fail to grasp the horror that was coming in just a few years. Very few did so I would not have believed it if Gretchen and Daniel had too much foresight.

The murder and the race to exonerate Daniel work as good reasons to get the kids back in Germany but it’s the rise of the Nazi Party and all that entails that provides the real story here. It’s one we should never forget and authors like Ms. Blankman who create such entertaining tales that focus on historic truth help us hold on to that knowledge. Along with such weighty issues, though, I relish keeping company with Gretchen and Daniel and am looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.