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by Ed Ifcovic
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2018
252 pages
ISBN: 146420943X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ed Ifcovic is a master of the historical murder mystery. In this, his eighth Edna Ferber novel, MOOD INDIGO, set in 1932 at the height of the depression and just a few months before FDR takes over the presidency from Herbert Hoover, Edna is attending Noel Coward's birthday party on Christmas Eve. The party is ruined, when Broadway big shot Cyrus Meerdom calls the city's latest songbird Belinda Ross a harlot. Mimicking a scene from British drawing room melodrama, Belinda slaps Meerdom across the face. His dramatic exit tickles Edna and Noel. But Noel's party is over.

Both Edna and Noel are taken with Belinda's beau, financier Dougie Maddox, who is besotted with Belinda, his first love since escaping the cold hand of his mother, Lady Maud. When Belinda turns up strangled by Dougie's white silk scarf in the back hall of the Automat, Edna and Noel take on the hunt for Belinda's killer, as the days between Christmas and New Year's pass.

On the day before New Year's Eve, Edna confronts Lady Maud, a haughty and forbidding woman, in a powerful scene between two very strong-willed women.

And on New Year's Eve, Edna, with Noel in attendance, finally solves the crimes.

What makes the Edna Ferber series so much fun is that Ifcovic sets his stories at key moments in American history from 1904 when Edna meets Harry Houdini on her first newspaper job to 1955 on the set of Giant, where James Dean is charged with a murder which he did not commit.

The second delight of this series is that Edna is paired with other famous historical figures and the dialogue sparkles with their repartee, Noel Coward is the perfect foil for Edna. Noel is a witty effete Brit and Edna remains the down-to-earth observant Midwesterner. The clever talk and the witticisms make the dialogue unforgettable.

Edna's observant nature allows her to pay strict attention to all that she sees and hears. And she does solve all of her cases, just by being the nosy butt-in-ski that she is.

Ed Ifcovic peppers his novels with the zeitgeist of each era he explores. In the case of MOOD INDIGO, he pictures New York at the height of the depression, with the high contrast of Hell's Kitchen and the itinerant camps in Central Park, just below Edna's balcony nineteen stories high. Apple sellers hawk their wares outside the magnificent mansions of the rich and famous, while Edna's housekeeper Rebecca pours coffee for Edna and her visitors.

If the Edna Ferber series is new to you, I encourage you to read MOOD INDIGO, and then look for the other seven in the series. There is nowhere special to start as all eight novels bounce around through time, ignoring the simplicity of a correct timeline. Just the perfect reading for a chilly and wet winter day.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, February 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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