Cover Image: Fortune Favours the Dead

Fortune Favours the Dead

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A 1940s based romp of a detective story, featuring a classic locked door mystery trying to solve the murder of socialite Abigail Collins.
This book is the first in a new series which promises a lot
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They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover buy in all honesty I think it’s something that we’re all huilty of, whether intentionally or not. I’d seen this book, looked at the cover and decided it wasn’t to my taste so just kept on scrolling (as a side point – wouldn’t the world be a better place is more people decided to keep scrolling when they saw something they didn’t like). In case you’re interested, it was the bright yellow cover that I’d seen, maybe my interest would have been piqued if I’d seen the 1940’s inspired grey cover. Anyway, I kept seeing reviews of just how great Fortune Favours the Dead was and put my initial apprehension aside inorder to get hold of a copy, I’m so glad that I did. This is a truly captivating novel that was well worth reading. 

Set in 1940’s New York, Fortune Favours the Dead introduces up to Private Investigator Lillian Pentecost and her intelligent assistant Willowjean “Will” Parker.

The novel is narrated by Will and opens by introducing us to the two main characters, giving details as to how they met and started working together. It then quickly jumps to 3 years later when they are investigating the murder of Abigail Collins, a wealthy sociality who has been bludgeoned to death by a crystal ball at a Halloween party she is hosting. Found in the exact spot where husband committed suicide a year earlier rumour is rife that it was his spirit that killed her.

This novel has more than a hint of Sherlock Holmes about it and is written in a style that I feel stays true to the 1940’s time period. I love that although a murder mystery we are not subject to a gore fest. I’ve read a couple of books recently where the author seemed determined to shock the reader with their murder scene descriptions. Whereas Scotswood has confidently written a pair of characters that can carry the weight of the story. I’m really looking forward to future novels in this series.
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Fortune Favours the Dead is an offbeat homage to hard-boiled American crime fiction and introduces a promising new gender bending detective duo.  Lilian Pentecost is New York’s leading female detective but is suffering from a degenerative disease that is increasingly holding her back with the demanding legwork of the job.  When she meets twenty-year-old circus girl Willowjean “Will” Parker at a crime scene and sees that Will’s quick hands are accompanied by an even quicker head she hires her as an assistant and future replacement.  Nobody’s fool and as ready for a street brawl as she is to pick locks and probe, Will is a fascinating one-off with a penchant for ladies at a time when attitudes to sexuality were openly hostile to anyone deviating from the norm.  Three years into their time together in 1946 brings a threshold moment for the duo and a case with one heck of a fallout and the jaunty first person narrative of dynamic Will takes readers through it.

When the matriarch of a wealthy corporate family, Abigail Collins, is bludgeoned to death by a crystal ball at her very own Halloween party and her body found in the locked room it returns the family to the headlines.  Just a year prior to this event Abigail’s steel magnate husband, Alastair, shocked everyone who knew him by taking his own life, leaving Harrison Wallace as acting CEO of Collins Steelworks and Manufacturing and to handle the critical renegotiation of military contracts. As godparent to the Collins twins, Rebecca and Randolph, who share a fractious relationship Wallace hires Lilian Pentecost to search for the truth where the NYPD are failing to make headway.  The revelation that Abigail was seeing a high profile psychic whose methods Lilian is suspicious of combined with her mysterious background gives the duo more than a little food for thought.  However it is only when Rebecca starts putting the moves on Will that things really start to kick off...

Whilst I adored Will and was a paid-up fan of her style and the narrative I felt a little short-changed that despite being the boss Lilian Pentecost didn’t bring much to the party not even in terms of Agatha Christie style deduction.  The period detail is also patchy and it certainly doesn’t feel like the country is engaged in a war and despite the attitudes to homosexuality being spot-on it is harder to conceive of so many women flocking to the open Saturdays and taking Will’s self-defence lessons.  My overriding issue with the novel however was my dismay at the dud mystery element, the anticlimactic series of reveals and the fudge of a solution to the promise of an original locked-room mystery.  The denouement felt like the staggered revelation of several puzzles, none that particularly surprised me, and I will disappointed not to have felt more invested in the whodunnit element.  In the end it was Will and her sexuality alone that kept me reading and it is Will that will see me return for a future second book in this series.
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“Fortune Favours the Dead” is a brand new exciting historical crime series from award-winning playwright and journalist Stephen Spotswood. Featuring Ms Lilian Pentecost and Miss WillowJean Parker - New York private detectives set in 1946 New York - these two wonderful characters form a fabulous strong female duo, who are both audacious, spirited and fearless. Narrated by WillowJean (Will), a circus runaway with a catalogue of talents, including knife throwing, wrestling and lock picking, we hear the past events surrounding what looks like an impossible crime but with Lilian and Will on the case, there is no such thing and we are taken on a journey involving seances, murder, family secrets and a wide range of suspects. 
Lilian’s health is failing, suffering from MS but thriving even through her bad days, determined to continue her work regardless. Enrolling Will into her business was a very smart move, she’s quick witted, sharp, bold and her sexual interest in women made the story modern and up to date.  Her love of American dime store crime novels really completed the picture of her and her witty voice throughout the story made for a interesting and engaging read.  The agency mostly deals with private investigations but matriarch Lilian also has an ‘open house’ policy on a Saturday, where for those who can’t afford help, go to her for advice and support, while Will offers self defence classes to to women. 
Although the crux of the crime was a little confusing at times due to the number of possible suspects and long buried secrets, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading this intriguing debut in a promising new series and thought the whole creation of Will’s queer character brilliant. There’s a very helpful cast of characters at the start of the novel, which explains who they are and their involvement in the story, to help aid any confusion.
The author’s evident inspiration for the novel is based on his love of classic detective stories, Holmes and Christie being his go to reads of his youth. His fascination with mid-century hardboiled American detective stories is what gave him the imagination and courage to introduce a series that looks into the corners of American culture that is so often forgotten.
A unique, highly entertaining and fun read which kept me utterly engaged and I would welcome any further books in the Pentecost/Parker series with open arms.

5 stars
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I was a bit hesitant about this when i first started this but as i got into it more, i really enjoyed this. Going into this i wasn't aware of the queer element but really loved it and i thought that it was done well. The characters were fleshed out really well and the world-building was good as it built up 1940s New York in an obvious but good way. I really hope this becomes a full series as this was everything a queer detective novel should be.
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ortune Favours The Dead is the first book in a brilliant new series by Stephen Spotswood that mixes all the nostalgic charm of the best classic books of the genre into a seemingly traditional murder mystery with some surprisingly modern features.

Pentecost and Parker are our unconventional feminist, crime-solving duo succeeding in a post-World War II male-dominated world. Pentecost is a force to be reckoned with in her own right, but failing health and a chance encounter with the extra capable Parker while on a case forges a partnership that has everything you want and more in a detective novel of the period.

This tale is beautifully crafted into an outstanding murder-mystery that brings in elements of some of my absolute favourite detectives and their authors. The story is narrated in an enchanting 'case-book' style by Parker, as sort of a Watson to Pentecost's Holmes, that takes us through the nitty-gritty of the Collins case from the intriguing locked-room murder, all the way through to a thought-provoking encounter with a criminal mastermind Moriarty type figure - but Parker is certainly no Watson! Instead her tale is spun in the way of a hard-boiled gumshoe in the Raymond Chandler mould, and it works perfectly. Throw in more than a little Golden Age murder mystery in the style of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, and a hint of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown (especially in the form of the splendid housekeeper Mrs Campbell) and you have a winning combination that had me glued to the pages from start to finish.

The story plays out in the slickest and most entertaining of ways, against a New York full of a marvellous mix of characters from the so-called cream of society, down to the inhabitants of the dark underbelly of the city, and everyone in between - with dangerous dames and gorgeous guys, violent villains and cunning con-artists, everyone seems to have secrets that they would prefer stayed hidden, including our crime fighting duo. And it is on this front that the more modern elements of the story present themselves, especially in terms of the sexual predilections of some of the characters and the stark reality of the existence of the poorer residents of the city.

This really is a cracking book that leads you on a merry dance, and delights you when the pieces finally fall into place - with more than a few nicely contrived surprises. I loved every minute spent with Pentecost and Parker and cannot wait for the next book in the series!
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Fortune Favours the Dead evokes a wonderful sense of film noir in immediate post war New York. Our heroines are the private detectives Lilian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker, and the novel begins with their meeting, a great story in in itself. As Parker is our narrator we learn some of her life story, but more is to be revealed about Lillian - perhaps information has been withheld for inevitable sequels?
Investigators aside, the crime they are asked to solve involves a stellar cast of nouveau riche New Yorkers and the hardworking factory and domestic staff that enable them to enjoy their lavish lifestyle.
Amongst the enjoyable crime solving Stephen Spotswood explores themes  of domestic abuse, sexuality and the exploitation of grief, but the character of Willowjean is the reason to keep reading; she is caring, impulsive and highly skilled and a great narrator of the story. I look forward to reading more of Pentecost and Parker.
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The first time I met Lillian Pentecost, I nearly caved her skull in with a piece of lead pipe.
Willowjean “Will” Parker is the assistant to the great detective Lillian Pentecost, but never encountered any case such as the murder of Abigail Collins. The recently widowed Abigail, the recently-widowed matriarch of the Collins family met her death following a séance to speak to her husband. She was found locked inside her room, bludgeoned to death with the psychic’s crystal ball.
Lillian is hired by Abigail’s children to investigate the murder, but Abigail’s daughter already knows who the murderer is. It was perfectly simple – she was killed by her dead husband’s ghost…
This is the debut novel from playwright and journalist Stephen Spotswood, and I’m guessing after reporting on the aftermath of recent wars, he fancied a little light relief with this novel.
It’s an odd novel. The blurb for the UK edition does give the impression of a classic locked room mystery, but this is closer to a noir thriller than a fairly clued classic mystery. Right, that’s the gripe out of the way – but it’s not really a gripe, because I really, really enjoyed this book.
Let’s start with the central characters. Will is clearly the Watson character to Lillian’s Holmes, but this is too simplistic a comparison. Lillian is suffering from MS, a condition that is making her work harder and harder, and is clearly training Will, who has skills of her own, being raised in the circus. Their friendship is rather lovely, with an element of mother-daughter thrown into the mix. Will, as the narrator, has an interesting journey throughout the tale, although her trials and tribulations never stray far from the central plot.
The suspects are a nice variety, with every character playing an important part in the narrative, which is always nice to see. Similarly, the police detective is antagonistic enough to be an effective counterpoint to our heroines while sympathetic enough to not to be a caricature.
The locked room isn’t at all bad - while it’s pretty simple and the first thing that people might think of, there’s actually a good reason for it, and again, it does involve sensible behaviour from the person or persons involved. It’s not exactly the focus of the plot though, so don’t rush out and buy it just for that, although, to be fair, it is a proper locked room. The idea of the killer being a ghost doesn’t last very long though…
As I said, this isn’t a desperately clued mystery – there are at least two important photographs, which never work well on the printed page – but there is a logic going through the whole tale. As I said, it has much more of a noir feel to it, as bad things happen to people and there is lot of blurring between guilt and innocent.
What’s the best way to recommend it? Well, I got a review copy via NetGalley and clearly it was an early Kindle version that had been adapted from a pdf, which unfortunately meant that the line spacing was all over the place, making it in theory a pain to read. I basically ignored it after a few pages, which, for a grumpy git like me is the sign of a very enjoyable read.
Fortune Favours The Dead is out in the UK today, the 12th of November, from Wildfire, in hardback and ebook. Many thanks for the review copy.
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Fortune Favours the Dead is the first instalment in the Pentecost and Parker Murder Mystery series, featuring Private Investigator Lillian Pentecost, who runs her own detective agency, alongside her assistant, intelligent and cultured Willowjean ”Will” Parker. It's 1942 and Will is a scrappy circus runaway whose knife-throwing skills have just saved the life of New York's best, and most unorthodox, private investigator, Lillian Pentecost. When the dapper detective summons Will a few days later, she doesn't expect to be offered a life-changing proposition: Lillian's multiple sclerosis means she can't keep up with her old case load alone, so she wants to hire Will to be her right-hand woman. In return, Will is to receive a salary, room and board, and training in Lillian's very particular art of investigation.

Three years later, Will and Lillian are on the Collins case: Abigail Collins was found bludgeoned to death with a crystal ball following a big, boozy Halloween party at her home--her body slumped in the same chair where her steel magnate husband shot himself the year before. With rumors flying that Abigail was bumped off by the vengeful spirit of her husband (who else could have gotten inside the locked room?), the family has tasked the detectives with finding answers where the police have failed. But that's easier said than done in a case that involves messages from the dead, a seductive spiritualist, and Becca Collins--the beautiful daughter of the deceased, who Will quickly starts falling for. When Will and Becca's relationship dances beyond the professional, Will finds herself in dangerous territory, and discovers she may have become the murderer's next target.

This is a charming and utterly captivating historical murder mystery, set against the atmospheric backdrop of 1940s New York City. Lillian and Will are characters that are exquisitely wrought and who both have distinct personalities. I loved that they were instantly likeable and the dynamic they have together really worked. They're quirky, relatable, strong women, who don't shy away from backing themselves and each other in a sector dominated by men. I feel as though they very much came alive on the page they were so carefully and intricately built. The murder mystery aspect is superbly plotted, well written and chugs along at a decent pace while also allowing Spotswood the time necessary for series opener exposition. A compulsive, fun and entertaining read and one of the finest series starters I have read in a while. Sublime. Many thanks to Wildfire for an ARC.
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I never usually read books set in the past, after reading this I am asking myself what else have I missed out on 

I don't usually read books set in the past, for some reason. I am pretty adventurous with my genres and choices of books but seemed to have a mental block on reading books set in the past, I am now berating myself, and wondering what else I have missed out on. I absolutely loved this book, the characters, especially Will were great, the plot was a giant puzzle to unlock, and the pace of the book was spot on . I loved the humour and the descriptions of the time it was set in.In fact there was nothing I didn't enjoy. It is going into my top 10 books of this year, and I am chomping at the bit already waiting for the next book in this series. Fabulous book.
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A refreshingly different type of detective story which was an enjoyable read. I loved the characters and the setting and I hope that there are more books to come.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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This is an excellent and fun first in a series of murder mysteries set in 1940s New York.  The private detectives are a fantastic duo with Lillian Pentecost as the older and ailing (sensitively done coverage of her MS illness) more established detective who takes on young Willowjean Parker, who had run away from an unhappy home with her abusive father to work in a travelling circus. Parker's youth and skill set (everything from picking locks to handling knives) add to the wily mind of Pentecost.
Parker is our narrator taking us into the backgrounds and then onto the case of the Collins murder 3 years into their partnership, There are some excellent characters (with brilliant names!) - I particularly liked Professor Olivia Waterhouse an academic with more than a passing interest in the occult and the links to seances, spirits and secrets. Locating the murder in a locked room gives us the classic whodunnit with clues abounding amongst family and colleagues as to the real murderer suspect.
It was nice to get the feel for America after WWII and the role of women especially and the inclusion of same sex relationships added to the freshness of the novel.
I am sure this will prove to be a popular series.  TV potential surely promises.
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Set during the final years of WW2 in New York, Stephen Spotswood writes the first of a delightful historical murder mystery series featuring the famous female PI, Lillian Pentecost, with her detective agency and narrated by her assistant, the street smart Willowjean 'Will' Parker, an ex-cirky girl with an unusual skill set acquired after becoming a jack of all trades at the circus, after running away from home. It was her knife throwing skills that saved Lillian on their first meeting that led to Will's new career direction, Lillian is suffering from the progressive disease of MS and badly needed help, training Will in the vital skills required in the profession. A wealthy woman, Lillian, feels the strong need to put back into the community, her well paying clients allow her to run the packed Open Saturdays, where those who cannot afford her services receive the requisite support, and Will runs her self defense classes for women often facing abuse and domestic violence, as a consequence the detectives have a wide network of informants to draw on for their cases.

The agency is called in when the wealthy Abigail Collins, wife of a steel magnate, Alistair, who switched to production of military weapons for the American war effort, is discovered murdered, a locked room mystery, at the annual Halloween Party celebrations that boasted the presence of fortune teller and spiritualist, Ariel Belestrade. Strangely, a year previously, Al Collins had committed suicide in the same room and rumours are rife that it was the dead man who was responsible for killing his wife with a crystal ball. It is a complex investigation, with a wide range of suspects that include the beautiful Collins twins, Randolph and Becca, and their beloved godfather, Harry Wallace, a good friend of their father. Will struggles to adhere to Lillian's order that she stay away from Ariel, only to find herself regretting not following her instructions. And why can't they find any information on Abigail before she arrived in New York?

Spotswood new series oozes charm and atmosphere, with its wonderful offbeat protagonists that immediately caught my interest, their relationship with each other is a joy to observe as they are always there for each other when required. I particularly liked Will, dressing like a man, unafraid of taking on men twice her size, with her sexual attraction to Becca, hardworking and determined, but a woman with her flaws. There are faint echoes of the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson dynamic, but Will is more of her own woman, and with Lillian's MS set to worsen, no doubt Will is going to have to increasingly step up in the future. This is such a promising beginning to the new series, so engaging and entertaining, that I cannot wait for the next in the series! Many thanks to Headline for an ARC.
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What A Treat...!
What a treat! Set in 1940’s New York, Private Investigator Lillian Pentecost hires an assistant- enter the delightful and eccentric Willowjean Parker. So begins a new partnership. When the duo are tasked with a murder investigation they are faced with a seemingly impossible crime - of course, they know that there is no such thing. Enormously entertaining, wryly witty, clever whodunit with an entirely engaging pair of protagonists and a colourful cast. The first in a new series it seems. Bring on the next!
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This was my first ever NetGalley copy to review and I’m delighted it was excellent. Although apparently  from a first time author, his background as a playwright  and journalist has obviously helped in a very smooth writing style. The blurb for the book mentions Holmes and Watson but it seemed much more like Nero Wolfe and Archie. I was slightly concerned the young apprentice was too omnitalented but this wore off. Delighted to report zero scores for physical violence, sexual violence and swearing. Hopefully nobody would be offended by two key same-sex relationships in the plot. 1945 New York was a well described background. The plot was strong although the very final reveal was perhaps over elaborate. I will definitely buy any further books in the series. Btw was a bit puzzled by two different titles for this book on the Fantastic Fiction web site.
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I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud at the cast of characters at the beginning of a book before - I think from that point I knew I was in for a treat with this mystery novel!

Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker are not your average detective duo. Ms Pentecost is New York’s finest lady detective, but she’s not getting any younger and needs an assistant to help her as she battles multiple sclerosis. She meets Willowjean while the latter is temping as a security guard to earn some extra money alongside her job in a travelling circus. Willowjean’s circus tricks soon come in handy helping Ms Pentecost catch a murderer (she can pick locks and throw knives, amongst other things), and she’s soon hired on board full time at the private detective agency.

Fast forwarding to a few years later, Willowjean recounts a particularly interesting case the two worked on: the deaths of the wealthy duo, Al and Abigail Collins. Al Collins was presumed to have committed suicide, until a year later his wife is bludgeoned to death by a crystal ball at a seance. Then it seems both deaths are suspicious, and the family hire Ms Pentecost to investigate.

Willowjean is an utterly delightful character to be led through this novel by; she has many, many great lines. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable read; think Sherlock Holmes and Watson but with all female leads and a ton of old time New York and quirky sass thrown in. I’m hoping that Lillian and Willowjean will be back for more mysteries - something tells me this is just the start. 

My thanks to #NetGalley and the publisher, Headline, for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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