by Brenda Joyce

March 2002
ISBN: 0-312-97768-9
Reviewer Graphic Button St. Martin`s Press
Mass Market Paperback

This is a difficult book for me to review, because it took me several tries to really get into the story. However, once I had a firm grip on who was who, it turned into a couldn’t-put-it-down novel!! Quite a surprise. For those readers familiar with Brenda Joyce, this is a ‘Francesca Cahill’ book – and thank you St. Martin’s Press for telling me that on the cover. What I would have liked a lot more would have been if you’d told me WHICH ONE!!!!

Because this is not the first Francesca Cahill book, but I believe, the second – and it was not unlike walking into a theatre during the second act. While much of the introduction does cover Miss Francesca Cahill, her family, friends and life in this exciting era of new fangled motor cars, buttoned-up blouses and Edwardian morals, I probably would have felt much more comfortable had I read the introductory novel first! (Watch for a rant about this in the future on this site – I’m so fed up with this happening to me!!! Grrr!)

However, Francesca and her adventures more than rewarded my dedication to my reading task – this novel reminded me of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ with a dash of Lord Peter Wimsey thrown in for good measure. Francesca is a girl ahead of her time; quietly and secretively getting an education in turn-of-the-century New York. Moving in exalted social circles, she is expected to behave appropriately, marry and produce offspring. Hah!!! Francesca is a “Crime Solver Extraordinaire”, and shuns the empty trappings of New York’s upper crust, to the dismay of her family.

The crimes she investigates have brought her into contact with enigmatic Police Commissioner Rick Bragg – and sparks are a-popping when these two put their heads together (literally and figuratively). Very intelligent and very human, Francesca is a great heroine. She is dedicated to her goals, and does what she believes is right (even though sometimes it isn’t!). She’s not fearless, but she is courageous, both physically and spiritually, and she’s a perfect match for the handsome, patient, at-his-wit’s-end Police Commissioner who stumbles over her every time he pursues a clue in his latest case!! Together they are a potent team, but because this is clearly part of a series of novels, their romance is not allowed to run its course in this book, but is taking place over several books – and yes, I have to get the next one to find out what happens to them!!

I believe that doing some research and establishing an order for these books might be well worthwhile – the writing is snappy and intelligent, and the characters beautifully drawn. The sleuthing is well developed, and Ms. Joyce is certainly very comfortable with her environment. I have to read a couple more to fully appreciate these stories – the fact that I want to do so is a recommendation in itself.

Reviewed in May 2002 by Celia.

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