Book Review: The Victory Dance Murder by M T Jefferson

victory dance murder m t jefferson Book Review: The Victory Dance Murder by M T Jefferson

Set in 1941, just after the Pearl Harbour attacks, M T Jeffersons The Victory Dance Murder'couples a small-town setting with life during wartime. Protagonist Kate Fallon has seen her beau off to the front lines, and is doing everything in her power to distract herself from the possibility that he may not return. But with most of the mensfolk shipped off to war, theres plenty of slack to be picked up in Robinsville, Pennsylvania. Theres a Victory Rally and Dance to be organised, plenty of labour to be doneand a murder to solve.

If Kate didnt have enough on her plate with her day job and Victory Rally responsibilities, she certainly does after being found to have been the last person to have spoken to Nancy Edinger before Nancys untimely death. A mystery novel aficionado, Kate knows that Nancys ex-boyfriend is the most likely culprit, but cant shake the feeling that theres more to the story than there would seem.

The Victory Dance Murder'starts out strongly, with the setting and characters well fleshed-out and the plot kicking promptly into gearwe get our dead body quite promptly indeed, and Kate soon finds herself on the case, thanks in part to a personal obsession with mystery novels (how very recursive).

The relationship between Kate and her family is nicely done, particularly that between Kate and her little brother Paulie, although some of the additional interactions, such as those between Kate and bookshop owner Bea, which largely involve discussions about how murders only happen in, gasp, mystery novels, seemed more like plot machinations rather than real, organic relationships.

Though the war-era setting is one of the stronger elements of the book, with much discussion given over to rationing and to the appropriateness of seeking out popular entertainment during wartime, it gradually begins to take over the story, to the detriment of the mystery plot. When Kate loses her job after her place of employment burns down, she needs to seek alternative employment, and ends up working as a welder in a factory. While an interesting side plot, it detracts from the ongoing murder investigation, particularly since it doesnt tie in at all with the eventual conclusion. I also felt that this element lacked believability: Kate is welcomed on board by the factory owner, is unquestioningly treated as an equal (and given equal pay) by her boss and coworkers, and is promptly promoted after a week, all of which seems a little surprising given the era in which the book is set. Sexism does come into play elsewhereKates family and fiancebut for it to be absent in the highly masculine domain of the workplace seems a bit of an oversight.

Regardless of what Kates off doing, the mystery slowly begins to come to a head until its conclusion barrels on to the page seemingly without warning. This is in part because its been subordinated to Kates work and other setting-related elements. To be honest, I found myself bewildered by the way the mystery unfolds: it seems as though the mystery itself began in an earlier book, and rather than following a sensical series of events, is a cobbled-together mass of murder, arson and a suddenly-discovered mystery novel manuscript written by one of the murder victims. Perhaps its that the conclusion was rushed, but I struggled to see how these elements came together into a coherent whole.

The Victory Dance Murder'is light and highly readable, but given the weakness of the mystery, I cant help feel that it may have been more successful as a mainstream novel instead.

Rating: ????? (not bad)

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