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Deadly Spirits by Mary Miley (book review)

Cover of the novel "Deadly Spirits" by Mary Miley. A woman appears on the left-hand side of the cover. She wears a party dress from the 1920s and a headband. On the right-hand side, there's a fountain of champaign flutes.

(Goodreads description)

Medium’s assistant – and reluctant sleuth – Maddie Pastore is shocked when her long-lost sister is accused of murder, in this twisty, atmospheric mystery set in 1920s Chicago.

Summer, 1924

Young widow Maddie Pastore has been working for fraudulent spiritual medium Madame Carlotta for nearly a year – if ‘work’ you could call it. Investigating Carlotta’s clients, and attending seances as her shill, keeps Maddie and her young son Tommy fed and clothed, and she’s grown to love the kind, well-meaning spiritualist like family.

Still, Maddie – estranged from her abusive parents for over a decade – can’t help but wonder what fates befell her brothers and sisters. So when she lucks into two free tickets to a glamorous Chicago speakeasy and recognizes the star performer as her pretty little sister Sophie, she’s beyond delighted.

But before Maddie can meet with Sophie again, the telephone rings. It’s Sophie’s husband, calling in a panic to tell her that his wife is locked in the Cook County jail, charged with first-degree murder . . .

Enter a dark and deadly world of seances and speakeasies, populated by fake mediums, sultry singers and dangerous mobsters! An ideal pick for readers who enjoy glitzy Jazz Age mysteries with feisty female sleuths.

Thursday Quotables Meme

Deadly Spirits by Mary Miley is the third instalment in the Maddy Pastore Mysteries, a historical mystery serie set in 1920s Chicago. (read the first two book reviews here and here)

Up to the first two books in the series, it reads very easily, a cosy, pleasant read, and the mystery is good enough to keep you engaged.

I didn’t expect the inciting incident, Maddie practically stumbling upon her little sister, who she hadn’t seen since she was a little girl, and though I find it maybe too much of a coincidence, I did enjoy the rest of the mystery.

Sophie, Maddie’s little sister, is involved in a murder where she appears to be caught red-handed and doesn’t remember anything.

I found this mystery very engaging, and I wanted to know what happened, so I found it a bit distracting when the author strayed from this plot to place us on an overarching one that didn’t really do anything for me. Sure, it humped the action. Sure, it added tension, but I didn’t need it with a good mystery going on.

But in the end, I enjoyed it. The recurring cast is endearing, and I did care what happened to them, even if it had nothing to do with the central mystery. And as always, I enjoyed the depiction of a spiritualist’s life, which is clearly very well-researched.

It was an enjoyable read.

Deadly Spirits by @marymileytheo #BookReview #HistoricalMystery #HistoricalFictionMaddie is the shill for a fortuneteller in 1920s Chicago, and this has taught her how to investigate people. Share on X

Deadly Spirits

‘Has Sebastian come to visit you?’

She sniffed and nodded.

‘And the lawyer? Farnsworth?’

Another shaky nod.

‘What did they say?’

‘They say the cops think I killed Nick,’ she said, chewing her fingernails as her words spilled out in a jerky fashion. She glanced around the room nervously, avoiding my gaze. ‘They found him in the room with me. Where I was lying, upstairs. Dead. On the floor. His head bashed by a candlestick. A brass candlestick. It was beside me on the bed. My fingerprints…’

‘What do you remember?’

‘That’s what everyone keeps asking me! And I keep answering – nothing! Nothing! Stop it!’ Her voice rose hysterically. ‘I remember nothing at all!’

Others turned to look at us. The guard turned and headed our way. I signalled with one hand that we would keep quiet, and the guard resumed her watchful stance from the corner. I spoke to Sophie soothingly. ‘Let me try an easier question. Do you remember singing in the living room?’

She nodded grudgingly.

Pinteret pin. The title reads, "Deadly Spirits by Mary Milay - historical mystery book review". The picture is a close-up of a martini glass filled with a classic gin and vermouth cocktail garnished with a cucumber slice.

‘And that was about what time? Ten o’clock? Eleven?’


‘What did you sing?’

‘Silly songs. “Yes We Hae No Bananas”, “Toot toot tootsie”. That sort.’

‘Did the guests applaud?’

‘Of course. Nick – Nick requested those. And some others.’

‘Did you sing the Happy Birthday song?’

‘Not then. That was for later.’

‘But later never came, right’?

Si nodded miresably.

‘What were you drinking?’

‘Soda water with lemon.’

‘Nothing alcoholic?’

‘I don’t drink alcohol.’

‘You’re a teetotaler?’

‘I mean I don’t drink when I’m performing. Alcohol hurts my voice.’

The Thursday Quotables  was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy . It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursdays and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.

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