Monday, October 6, 2008

High Spirits-Alice Duncan

High Spirits
Alice Duncan
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594146954

In February 1921 in Pasadena, California Daisy Gumm Majesty makes a living for her and her disabled WWI veteran husband Billy by pretending to be a spiritualist. Her otherworldly control Rolly, who she invented when she was ten years old, enables her to put bread on the table as Billy is unable to work though he despises how she makes money.

Her best client Mrs. Kincaid begs Daisy to do a reading at a speakeasy; she says no hiding behind Rolly not stepping inside a den of iniquity. However, eventually she reluctantly agrees though not for her client’s daughter Stacy who calls herself Flossie Mosser who frequents the joint run by mobster Vicenzo Maggiori. With Mrs. Kincaid’s kind son Harold escorting her Daisy enters the speakeasy while Billy’s best friend homicide detective Sam Rotondo worries about her especially when the cops raid the joint.

More a satirical historical lampooning the Prohibition stereotypes than a mystery, fans of Alice Duncan’s spirited post WWI thriller will relish this fine entry as Daisy gets into one troubling incident after another. Although the plot is thin, the insight into 1920s California is deep and vivid while the cast is strong especially Billy struggling mentally due to his war related physical disabilities. Fans will enjoy Mrs. Majesty’s latest reading.

Harriet Klausner

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