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Teetotaled: Discreet Retrieval Agency #2 by Maia Chance

Teetotaled: Discreet Retrieval Agency #2 by Maia Chance

Who’s up for a 1920’s era mystery, the second in the Discreet Retrieval Agency series by Maia Chance. Please read on for my review and an excerpt from

Teetotaled

So – I couldn’t find a way to resist this one – I’m obsessed with the BBC mysteries that air on PBS weekly, and have been taken in by the improbably Australian production of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the heroine is a straight-forward modern woman, rather clever but mostly lucky, with a fun setting and clever mix of historical influences and murder.  So, I had hopes.

And Maia Chance delivered what I had hoped for: characters with style and a bit of flair, plenty of humor and a touch of luck.  Lola is a widow, down on her luck and funds, after her husband’s death.  With the help of her loyal cook Berta and one portly Pomeranian, Cedric.  Not willing to ‘out’ herself as a lady detective with the Discrete Retrieval Agency, the rent has come due and needs must…

Traveling to her brother-in-law’s ‘fat farm’, Lola and Berta have been hired to find a diary belonging to the daughter of her mother’s friend.  Friend’s daughter Grace and her diary disappear shortly after their arrival, and then the bodies start to drop…..

Characters stand out in this story: Lola with her ‘way’ of approaching life and it’s pleasures, her attempts to maintain a ‘certain standard’ in all things while still enjoying the times she indulges her sweet tooth.  Berta, a no-nonsense and rather pragmatic woman with a logical way of thinking, a belief in Lola and her wish to do well, and providing an insight and perspective that the life Lola has led do not provide.  When you add in Ralph the detective with his obvious feelings for Lola despite her driving him around the bend with her unorthodox approach, there are plenty of moments to love, and the story moves forward quickly. Engaging, unique and clever, I’ll be sure to read more of this series.

Teetotaled: Discreet Retrieval Agency #2 by Maia Chance

Title: Teetotaled
Author: Maia Chance
Series: Discreet Retrieval Agency #2
Genre: Contemporary Mystery, Historic Elements
Published by: Minotaur Books
ISBN: 1250072212
Published on: 4 October, 2016
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 304
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 17 minutes
Rated: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
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About the Book:

In Maia Chance’s follow-up to her acclaimed Prohibition-era caper Come Hell or Highball, Lola Woodby is hired to find a diary, but soon the diary owner’s future mother-in-law is murdered.

After her philandering husband died and left her penniless in Prohibition-era New York, Lola Woodby escaped with her Swedish cook to the only place she could—her deceased husband’s secret love nest in the middle of Manhattan. Her only comforts were chocolate cake, dime store detective novels, and the occasional highball (okay, maybe not so occasional). But rent came due and Lola and Berta were forced to accept the first job that came their way, ultimately leading them to set up shop as a Discreet Retrieval Agency, operating out of Alfie’s cramped love nest.

Now they’re in danger of losing the business they’ve barely gotten off the ground—they haven’t had a job in months and money is running out. So when a society matron offers them a job, they take it—even if it means sneaking into a detox facility and consuming only water and health food until they can steal a diary from Grace Whiddle, a resident at the “health farm.”

But barely a day in, Grace and her diary escape from the facility—and Grace’s future mother-in-law is found murdered on the premises. Lola and Berta are promptly fired. But before they can climb into Lola’s red and white Duesenberg Model A and whiz off the property, they find themselves with a new client and a new charge: to solve the murder of Grace’s future mother-in-law.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Read an Excerpt

 

July 14, 1923

The afternoon Sophronia Whiddle offered us the diary job, it was so hot, you could’ve sizzled bacon on the sidewalk. Which wasn’t a half-bad idea, come to think of it, except that I was out of funds for bacon. I’d been living on shredded wheat for days. All right, hours.

My detecting partner, Berta Lundgren, and I were reading at the kitchen table in our poky little Washington Square apartment, waiting for the telephone to ring. Stagnant city air puffed in from the window. My Pomeranian, Cedric, panted in front of an electric fan. I yawned, and turned a page of the latest issue of Thrilling Romance.

“Mrs. Woodby, would it be remiss of me to suggest that you spend your leisure hours reading edifying publications?” Berta asked in her stern Swedish accent. She held up her book. Mexico City Mayhem, by Frank B. Jones, Jr. The cover depicted a man in a fedora wrestling a sinister-looking fellow in some sort of Aztec temple.

That is edifying?” I asked.

“Indeed. Thad Parker’s advice for decrypting ancient hieroglyphics could benefit our detective agency. Thrilling Romance is merely, well, pulp.”

“But Jake Cadwell, Wall Street tycoon, is about to propose marriage to innocent young Lucinda from the typing pool. It’s all she’s ever dreamed of.”

“I do realize you are pining for the absent Ralph Oliver—”

“Pining? What absolute hooey.”

“—but between you and me, Mrs. Woodby, if a man abruptly ceases to telephone, well, it is an indication that he has lost interest.”

“I don’t give a squirrel’s acorn about what Ralph Oliver may or may not be interested in. Besides, he’s on a job in Cuba.”

“If you say so.”

I gave Thrilling Romance a shake and resumed reading.

The clock ticked.

I looked up. “I happened to notice that you boing like a broken spring every time the telephone jingles.”

“I am hopeful for detective work.”

“Not hopeful that Jimmy the Ant wishes to squire you to the movie palace?”

“Mr. Ant must keep a low profile for a time.”

“He’s hiding from the Feds, you know.”

Berta sent me a dirty look, patted her gray bun, and went back to her book.

Is this what had become of the newly hatched Discreet Retrieval Agency? Two sweaty, bickering ladies waiting for ginky fellows to telephone?

We needed work.

A knock at the apartment door launched me to the little entry foyer. Berta wasn’t far behind. Cedric made a halfhearted yap but stayed in the kitchen. He had been lackluster lately because he was on strict kibble rations. If he didn’t slim down in time for his photograph session in two weeks, the people at Spratt’s Puppy Biscuits weren’t going to use him in their advertising campaign. Cedric’s career would be over before it began.

“You do not have shoes on, Mrs. Woodby,” Berta said. “If it is a client—”

“Oh, they’ll understand,” I said, and opened the door. At first it seemed that no one was there. Just the stairwell, stinking of mildew and fried onions. Then I noticed the snub-nosed five-year-old boy.

“Oh, hello, Sam,” I said. “What have you there?”

“Five cents, ma’am,” Sam lisped. He held up a grubby nickel. “Ma said this is for finding Puffy.”

“Thanks awfully, Sam, but why don’t you keep your money? Tell your mother the job is on us. Puffy was only behind the water tank on the roof. He wasn’t really lost.”

“Okay, sure, thanks something fierce, Mrs. Woodby!” Sam pocketed the nickel and scampered up the stairs in the direction of his family’s third-floor apartment.

I shut the door and turned.

Berta blocked the foyer doorway. “This simply will not do,” she said.

“You’re preaching to the choir.”

“What has our commission been since we printed our business cards? Zilch.”

“Don’t remind me. I drank the last drop of whiskey last night. I’m now an unwilling teetotaler.”

We drifted back to the kitchen.

In the past month, our fledgling agency had solved a total of five cases: disappearing milk bottles, nicked newspapers, two lost cats (including Puffy), and a spying endeavor involving the teenaged Martin Ulsky and his two-timing ways. The only payment we’d accepted was a set of Mrs. Bent’s hand-knitted egg cozies. Which were pretty cute.

“The rent will be due again,” Berta said.

“That’s the trouble with rent.”

“Perhaps we should take out a larger newspaper advertisement. I knew the one-and-a-half-inch square would not attract enough notice.”

Another knock sounded on the door. Cedric didn’t bother yapping this time.

Berta and I locked desperate eyes.

“For pity’s sake, Mrs. Woodby, put on your shoes.”

Once I’d stuffed my feet into a pair of T-straps, Berta opened the door.

“I had almost decided that I had the wrong address,” a stout, elegant, middle-aged woman said. “But I see it is indeed you, Lola Woodby.” Her eyes flicked to Berta. “And … your cook?”

“Mrs. Lundgren used to be my cook,” I said. “How pleasant to see you, Mrs. Whiddle.” Seeing Sophronia Whiddle was about as pleasant as an ingrown toenail. Sophronia was not only a New York grande dame, but my own mother’s bosom friend, too. Mother, by the way, had no inkling that I’d gone into the gumshoe trade. I was supposed to be mourning my recently popped-off husband, Alfie. But since Alfie had left me high and dry, I was no longer a pampered, thirty-one-year-old Society Matron. I was a working lady. At least, I was trying to be a working lady.

Sophronia did a once-over of my wrinkly, last-season dress, my mussed dark brown bob, and my wide mouth and blue eyes that I hadn’t spruced up with lipstick or mascara. I was conserving the last of my department store cosmetics.

 

About Maia Chance

MAIA CHANCE was a finalist for the 2004 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington. She is writing her dissertation on nineteenth-century American literature. She is also the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal mystery series.

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