Wednesday, March 2, 2022

ARC Review: Front Page Murder by Joyce St. Anthony

Front Page Murder

Joyce St. Anthony
Series: A Homefront News Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (March 8, 2022)

Description: In this World War II-era historical mystery series debut by Joyce St. Anthony, small-town editor Irene Ingram has a nose for news and an eye for clues.

Irene Ingram has written for her father’s newspaper, the Progress Herald, ever since she could grasp a pencil. Now she’s editor in chief, which doesn’t sit well with the men in the newsroom. But proving her journalistic bona fides is the least of Irene’s worries when crime reporter Moe Bauer, on the heels of a hot tip, turns up dead at the foot of his cellar stairs.

An accident? That’s what Police Chief Walt Turner thinks, and Irene is inclined to agree until she finds the note Moe discreetly left on her desk. He was on to a big story, he wrote. The robbery she’d assigned him to cover at Markowicz Hardware turned out to be something far more devious. A Jewish store owner in a small, provincial town, Sam Markowicz received a terrifying message from a stranger. Moe suspected that Sam is being threatened not only for who he is…but for what he knows.

Tenacious Irene senses there’s more to the Markowicz story, which she is all but certain led to Moe’s murder. When she’s not filling up column inches with the usual small-town fare—locals in uniform, victory gardens, and scrap drives—she and her best friend, scrappy secretary Peggy Reardon, search for clues. If they can find the killer, it’ll be a scoop to stop the presses. But if they can’t, Irene and Peggy may face an all-too-literal deadline.

My Thoughts: Twenty-two-year-old Irene Ingram has taken over as editor of her father's newspaper The Progress Herald while he is off being a war correspondent in 1942. She's facing prejudice from some of her employees who are certain that they can do the job better than she can. But Irene is determined to prove that she can do the job. 

There are lots of stories in her changing town. The local ironworks is hiring women to fill some of the jobs left vacant by men gone to be soldiers. In fact, one of them is even boarding with Irene's family. Katharine is a singer working at the plant to make some money for an operation on her vocal cords. She is really a hit with Irene's younger sister because she knows Frank Sinatra.

Iren is outraged when the owner of the hardware store is targeted for anti-Semitic attacks. Then a Jewish man who works as a janitor at the ironworks is targeted at work and then is the victim of a suspicious accident. Both men are fearful that reporting the crimes will only lead to more problems for them. 

But then one of Irene's reporters is found dead in his home after telling Irene that he was off on a "hot tip." The police are thinking that Moe's death was an accident, but a letter Irene finds which tells her to be suspicious if he turns up dead gets Irene investigating to find out what story Moe was pursuing.

Irene tries to find out what is going on at the ironworks, but she is fobbed off by the owner and the new manager the owner recently hired. Then the owner is found dead of an apparent suicide which only raises Irene's suspicions.

The best part of this story was the setting. The slang and attitudes are pitch-perfect 1940s. Irene is a modern young woman who isn't so sure that women will be content to go back to homemaking and child rearing when the war ends, and the men come back. She's missing her fiancĂ© who joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and is in training in Louisiana. 

The mystery was not very mysterious. I had the villain identified almost at his first appearance in the story. The book was well-written and the characters were well-developed. The clues were nicely laid out and logical. But there was no suspense for me. 

Fans of the time period and those who enjoy historical mysteries will find this one pleasant. 

Favorite Quote:
"You know what they say," Vivian said. "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

Sylvia laughed. "And Moss is milking a lot of cows."

Betty looked confused. "I didn't know Mr. Moss was a farmer too."

That sent the three of us into fits of laughter.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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