Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big lights will inspire you

Coincidentally following the recent "Rah Rah New York" theme, I finished the next (and sadly, last) two books in my current mystery series. Set against the backdrop of the World War II home front, the Rosie Winter mysteries are pure joy - though it seems a bit disrespectful to say that, given that the overall tone is noir-esque and the author convincingly paints wartime society as an anxiety-ridden and depressed collective consciousness taunted by ghosts of hope.

Like the first two, I loved the sarcastic, plucky, crime-solving, struggling-actress main character. Unlike the first two, I had no clue who the culprits were until the heroine did - something every mystery fan secretly loves, especially if they've been catching on to the clues way too early in the capers lately.

In Winter in June, Rosie and her pal Jayne join the USO and tour the South Pacific with a performance troupe, lifting the morale of servicemen and women. Then in When Winter Returns, they go home to NYC as war veterans who saw combat as civilian entertainers. Murder and mayhem ensue, on top of all the stress caused by wartime food rations and saboteurs.

What was impressive about these last two was that characters and stereotypes from some of the previous books were completely upended. There was definitely continuity, but since the contexts and settings changed, so did new and shocking developments about some of the protagonists. Each book didn't neatly wrap up a chapter in the lives of all the colorful characters; it picked up with their personal drama in the next few books. And since actors and actresses (as well as mobsters) are the focus of these addictive whodunits, it all worked as great theater - not in an unbelievable soap-opera manner, but in a small-town-with-some-serious-skeletons kind of way.

And the subtle way the author addressed racism and sexism in the 1940s (both in and out of the armed forces) is definitely appreciated by a modern reader.

Looking forward to whenever Book 5 comes out!

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