Five Star, July 17 2009, $25.95
In 1926 in Los Angeles with her family mostly back in Boston, single woman Mercy Allcutt lives with her married sister Chloe and her brother-in-law Harvey Nash, owner of the successful Nash Studio. Mercy dreams of becoming a mystery author so to obtain knowledge of the genre, she works as all around office assistant to private investigator, Ernie Templeton. Mercy is excited with the renovations of the Figueroa Building where Ernie has his office; as does the law firm of James Quincy Carstairs who has an ugly history with Ernie from when he was a cop.
Nash Studio costumier Mr. Francis Easthope hires Ernie to prove to his mother Rosemary that she is paying a fortune to a phony spiritualist couple Mr. and Mrs. d'Agostina. Overwhelmed with too many clients at the moment, Ernie rejects the case, but Mercy offers to help him. Mercy plants Rupert Mullins inside the household as a houseboy so he can keep her informed. Mercy meets Rosemary at a séance hosted by d'Agostina pair. However, after the session is over, one of the attendees, gossip columnist Vivian Hartland, is found dead. Someone in the room obviously killed her. As the scandal explodes over Southern California, Boston Brahman Mrs. Allcutt moves into the home of her brother-in-law having left her spouse on the East Coast. She is horrified that her daughter is working and in the middle of a brouhaha unbecoming of a lady.
The second “Angel’s” 1920s mystery (see LOST AMONG THE ANGELS) is a fabulous whodunit filled with twists, red herrings, and a horde of viable suspects; of whom none has an obvious motive. Mercy’s mom with her upper crust Bostonian lifestyle adds humor as she is disappointed that her younger daughter is God forbid working. With a sense of time and place and loaded with a strong cast especially the heroine, Alice Duncan provides a strong historical investigative tale.