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Past won’t stay behind – Speakeasy (book review)

One morsel review: Fun, fast-paced story full of mystery and action. And set in Prohibition Era New York City, always a bonus for me!

Speakeasy (A.M. Dunnewin) - Behind the backdrop of jazz music and glistening flappers, murder after murder begins to unravel as revenge takes center stage, and Eddie soon learns that some secrets can’t be taken to the graveSpeakeasy

A.M. Dunnewin


Genre: historical


Eddie learns a hitman lurks in his speakeasy and is out for his life. As corpses pile up and strange events sabotage the joint, an old feud will find an end tonight.


A story about revenge, where the past is tightly intertwined with the present.

There’s a lot going on in this novelette in spite of its relative shortness. It starts out as a regular night at the club, Eddie Durante’s speakeasy in NYC, and a delivery of booze. But the delivery man breaks a scary news to Eddie: a hitman sent from the rival Caprice family hides in the club and is out for him.
Then corpses start to show and pile up in the most unthinkable places, and while the circle tights around Eddie, the story of how he came to be entangled into this revenge slowly comes to the surface.

This is not really a mystery, although the story is full of mysteries, but it is definitely a noir.

There isn’t an investigation, there is no sleuthing of any kind, not even on the part of the characters. The reader slowly discovers things that the situation seems to squeeze out of the characters, so that the reveal of the truth doesn’t come from the action of any one character, but is more the characters releasing information as the pressure becomes ever more unbearable.
What I liked the most about this story is how past and present intertwine tightly, to a point that what happened in the past is in a way even more important than what is happening now. At this point, nobody can do anything about it, all anyone can do is fight for their lives and try to come to terms with what was done and why. And this is what creates that kind of fatal unfolding that is so much integral to noir storytelling.

The story unfolds in just one night inside a speakeasy, which lends tightness to the events.

The speakeasy really creates a Twenties atmosphere, and yet it winks to today’s dancing halls. It’s a dark place, filled with music, people, smoke and alcohol. Flappers are queens of the speakeasy, but among them, more shady people move, clocked in darkness concealing their looks and merged into jazz music covering their voices.
Though the showdown does happen in the dance hall, most of the story takes place in more hidden places: the dressing room, the stockroom, the backyard, which is a sense reflects the core of the story itself, where hidden events come to the fore and are what really moves everything… in the good and in the bad.

Eddie, the main character, is a wounded soul you come to care about.

He’s part of the Durante family and so part of NYC underworld. He’s been a widower for more than five months now, her beloved wife took down by the rivalry with the Caprice family.
His mourning for his wife makes Eddie an endearing character, someone the reader easily sympathizes with. So, when you learn that a hitman is out for him inside his very speakeasy, that night, you can’t help but wonder why.
Well, I can tell you there’s a lot to discover about Eddie, right until the very last page.

Past won't stay bahind - Speakeasy by @AMDunnewin A Prohibition Era novella #amreading Share on X

Though surely enjoyable, the story isn’t flawless.

I really appreciate the pace, something new happens every few pages so that the reader continuously wants to discover. But just because the pace is so fast, an inquisitive reader may wander exactly when and how the hitman managed to kill off so many people, even in the innermost parts of the club. For me, reconstructing the timeline of events of that fateful night was very hard, which doesn’t detract from the enjoyment, but was indeed a bit distracting.
The family dynamics inside the Sindicate are adequate, but still felt a bit stiffened and a bit too straightforward for me. There were also a couple historical details that didn’t quite bought me.

But on the whole, it was a good, fun read.
The sequel to this novelette, Rum Row (also a novelette) is just out, in case you want to stick you nose in it. I’ll certainly do it!


  • Sue Coletta
    Posted February 6, 2015 at 11:37

    Nice “click to tweet” button. *wink*

  • Post Author
    Posted February 6, 2015 at 13:46

    Eh, eh… :-)
    See, I’m sperimenting it too.

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