Lights, Camera, Crime!
1932. With his partners-in-crime Jack and Frances off on their honeymoon, retired Vaudeville artist Uncle Sal intends to relive his glory days in London. As a man of many talents, it doesn’t take long until his old friend Molly Sweet secures him a small part in one of the new talking picture studios in London.
With his inimitable flair, he soon finds himself at home in front of the cameras, and backstage as well. But there are villains at play whose roles weren’t in the script, and Molly and her daughter need Uncle Sal’s help.
A starring role as a sleuth is nothing new for him, but this time he has to go undercover in a boarding house without the help of Jack and Frances.
Can he solve the case of the Christmas angel before his friends’ lives are shattered, or will his adventure in the movie world turn into a tragedy?
This is a very enjoyable novella which is part of the Jack and Frances Mystery Series by Carmen Radtke. It’s my first time reading this series, but I’ve fallen in love with the characters, though I understand that Uncle Sal – the lead character of this adventure – is, in fact, a supporting character in the main series.
But I like that the author chose him for this novella because he’s a charming fellow. He’s a former vaudeville actor – though ‘former’ is maybe not the right word. Not a young man anymore, he has quite a spirit, and in this adventure, he sizes the opportunity to work in the London film industry when it comes his way.
The depiction of the English film industry was the thing that most attracted me to the story, to be honest. I’ve read quite a few stories set in and around 1920s Hollywood, which was surely a fascinating place, but it wasn’t the central heart of the industry that it is today. In fact, in the 1920s, many different locations, both in the US and Europe, competed for that role.
There are so many details about the life of film actors of the time in this story, and I loved that the attention was on everyday life rather than on the industry as a whole. I found it very involving, and it helped me get involved in the different characters’ experiences.
The mystery in itself isn’t complicated, as would be the case with a shorter read, but it was engaging all the same. Definitely a cosy, without any kind of gore.
A very nice read for Christmas, if you ask me.
The Case of the Christmas Angel
Lou Polk, cast her deep-set, kohl-rimmed eyes over him and offered him to thin hands, covered with fraying black lace gloves. A cigarette holder with an unlit cigarette rested on an ashtray on her desk.
‘Mr Bernardo, welcome to my humble home.’ A slight pause between words betrayed her as either an old performer whose style had gone out with the new century, or a woman with a stutter using all her willpower to overcome the issue. Her eyebrows had been ruthlessly plucked and replaced with a thin painted line, her powder clung to every wrinkle, yet Uncle Sal took an instant shine to her.
He bent over her hands in an almost-kiss that delighted her. ‘The Pleasure is mine, and please, call me Sal.’
‘You haven’t promised too much, Molly, dearie.’ Lou flattered her eyelashes. ‘I hope you’ll be satisfied with the arrangements, Sal.’ She opened a drawer and produced a room key. ‘Your room is on the second floor.’
Lou flounced ahead. Her tasselled flapper dress ended over the bony knees and from behind, she reminded him of all the chorus members in the shows after the war.
The staircase creaked under their feet, but the bannister had a sturdy feel to it and a runner covered the steps all the way to the top floor.
‘On the first floor are my private rooms, the second floor is taken up by you, and two other gentlemen, and the third floor is taken up by the ladies.’
Lou unlocked the door to a room on the second floor. From the ceiling hung an uplighter switched on at the wall.
The room smelt of liberally applied beeswax polish, and a rug covered the floorboards between the brass bed and a washstand. A small wardrobe and a chair next to an electric heater completed the furniture. Velvet curtains that once were deep blue but now had faded, covered the windows.
‘What a pleasant room, and beautifully kept, Uncle Sal said as he sed down his suitcase.