Formats available: ebook
Genre: Historical mystery
Series: Jake and Laura Mystery, #1
Length: 264 pages
Date Released: August 12, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.
Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.
The Yankee Club is an actual baseball bat, signed by the New York Yankees in 1933.
It’s also the name of a speakeasy in New York that Jake Donovan used to call his home away from home, before he ran away from his problems and holed up in Tampa.
Coming back to the city doesn’t just force him to face everything and everyone he walked away from, it turns him back into the detective he used to be, for one last case.
And what a case it is! The story starts with Jake discovering that the girl he left behind has gotten herself engaged to a rich banker, and his best friend and former partner gets himself gunned down right outside their old offices–leaving Jake as a wounded witness with a promise to keep.
At first, the case seems simple enough, in motive if not in execution. Jake sets out to find out who murdered his old partner. It seems like a mob hit, and ought to be solvable when Jake goes out and barges in on his old friends; and his old enemies.
Nothing is ever that simple. As Jake delves deeper into the case, he discovers that his friend (and his ex-girlfriend) are secretly working for the government. The conspiracy that Jake uncovers could end with the overthrow of the government and change the face of history forever.
There’s no question that it’s probably going to get him killed. His only question is whether he can get the job done, and save the girl. Jake has to channel the private detective who stars in his mystery novels to have even a chance at saving the day.
Escape Rating B+: The Yankee Club has a very definite noir feel to it. The story takes place in the middle of the Depression, at a point where Prohibition was still very much in force. The city has mean streets, and too many people with mean attitudes and guns hidden away. Nothing says noir quite like guys with tommy guns in suitcases prowling the streets.
Everyone involved has a murky past (or present). Both the good guys and the bad. They all grew up in part of Queens that was rough, and they’ve all learned a lot from the school of hard knocks.
Jake has been using his less than savory origins as fodder for his Blackie Doyle detective series. His ex-girlfriend, Laura, learned to act while pretending that her father wasn’t beating her every week. Gino always “knows a guy who knows a guy” and pays off corrupt cops to keep his speakeasy open.
But at least their faults are honest. It’s the rich bankers who are shameful, in spite of their squeaky clean origins.
Someone tried to kill FDR before his inauguration, as a way of preventing the New Deal from taking place. (This part really happened) Now that he’s in office, they’re even more committed to stopping any policy that might help people dig out of the Depression, because they are on the “right” side of the “haves vs. have nots” equation.
The elaborate conspiracy feels all too real for the time period when this story takes place.
Jake and Laura remind me a bit of the characters from The Thin Man — a couple who find themselves solving crimes together. It’s an appropriate fit as well. Dashiell Hammett (and Lillian Hellman) are among the many historical characters who provide the period ambiance for The Yankee Club. While there was a point early on where the intermix of historical figures felt a bit like name-dropping, as the story continues they make the story “fit” into its time and place in a way that fictional characters might not.
I very much enjoyed this glimpse into the era of Babe Ruth, Hoovervilles and private eyes. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Jake and Laura series, All That Glitters. I can’t help but wonder what sort of fool’s gold, or just what kind of fool, they will be tangling with next.
As part of The Yankee Club Tour, Alibi Publishing is generously giving away a $25 Gift Card to the etailer of the winner’s choice!
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