December 5th, 1941. Houston socialite, Tracy Truworth, is always on the lookout for something suspicious. Especially after growing up with her nose in the latest Katie McClue mystery novel, a series featuring a twenty-something female detective and her constant feats of derring-do. And for Tracy, escaping reality through reading couldn’t come at a better time, since her own life isn’t exactly going along like she’d hoped. Not with her overbearing mother determined to see Tracy marry Michael — a lawyer likely to be a U.S. Senator someday — in a wedding rivaling royalty. Yet everything changes for Tracy when she spots a bleach-blonde bombshell on the train home from Dallas after a shopping trip to Neiman-Marcus. Because something certainly seems amiss with the blonde, given the way she covertly tries to snare men into her lair, and considering the way she suddenly ceases all flirtations when a Humphrey Bogart look-alike appears . . . complete with a mysterious package wrapped up in newspaper and twine.
Then days later, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, and just a few days after that, Germany declares war against the U.S. Rightly so, President Roosevelt returns the favor. Of course, Tracy immediately finds herself caught up in the War, just like the rest of the nation. But it’s her curiosity that leads her on a collision course with a killer, and she arrives at the bombshell’s apartment only moments after the blonde has been murdered. Though Tracy is accused of the crime at first, she quickly finds herself working as an Apprentice P.I., under the tutelage of a real private investigator. Soon, they’re hot on the trail of the bombshell’s murderer. Then from singing at the hottest nightclub around, to a car chase in her 1940 Packard, Tracy’s investigation takes her far from her blue-blood upbringing. And it isn’t long before she finds the War is hitting a lot closer to home than she ever imagined . . . and danger isn’t much farther than her doorstep . . .
Detective Denton, of course, sat right across from me. Between his size and the wingspan of his arms, he practically took up the entire expanse of the other side of the table. He’d been grinning like a Cheshire cat ever since Michael, a well-known Houston attorney, had walked in and made such a gigantic leap to such an erroneous conclusion. Of course, it didn’t help that Michael had practically announced his assumptions from a rooftop. Since then, Detective Denton had all but thrown the book at me.
Though at least he’d removed my handcuffs.
“Soooo . . . little missy,” he said in a slow drawl, one he seemed to have acquired somewhere between the apartment building and the police station. “This is all about a man, huh? And looking at your fiancé, being the handsome fella that he is, I can see why you’d want to ‘fight for your man.’ So when your fiancé called it quits, you headed straight for the girlfriend that he had on the side, and you got into a brawl. Only she was more of a scrapper than you thought, and the fight got more heated than you expected. And you ended up grabbing a knife and killing the little tart.”
“Excuse me?” Michael jutted out his chin. “I did not know the deceased in any way, and I was not having a dalliance with some mere floozy in a low-rent apartment. As for why Tracy stabbed this woman, I cannot say.”
I slammed my hands on the table and stood up. “Again, Betty was shot! She was shot, with a gun. She wasn’t stabbed. A stab wound makes a cut, whereas a gunshot leaves a hole. And I did neither of those things to her.”
Then I turned to Michael. “And why, pray tell, are you here? I thought our relationship was over.”
As always, Michael sighed. “I am here to represent you, Tracy. Pro bono. I am your lawyer.”
To which I let out a little shriek. “This is the best I can do for a lawyer?”
Now my mother glared at me. Or at least, she tried to glare at me, but no matter how hard she seemed to work at it, she could not manage to hold her gaze steady.
“Michael has a brilliant legal mind,” she huffed. Just before she turned her smiling face toward my ex, while her gaze fought to catch up. “Right, Michael?”
He raised one eyebrow. “Actually, Mrs. Truworth, I am only here to represent Tracy with the hopes of getting her out on bail soon.”
I gasped. “Out on bail? I haven’t been arrested. There isn’t going to be any need for any bail since I did nothing wrong.”
Nana touched my shoulder. “Tracy is not a murderer. She wouldn’t harm a fly.”
My mother scrunched up her face. “Who knows what Tracy would do? I can’t believe she actually got up on stage and sang this evening. How terribly common. And improper. And who knows what she did to ruin her engagement, though we do know it was clearly all her fault.”
“Tracy was going to break up with Michael,” Nana interjected. “She was planning on doing it tonight. He just did it first and saved her the trouble.”
Michael turned to me. “I’m shocked by this news. Positively shocked. It seems I hardly even knew the woman I was about to marry.”
I rolled my eyes. “Why would this come as a surprise? Maybe if you’d spent more time with me, we might’ve actually gotten to know each other.”
Michael sighed. “I don’t think it’s possible for a man to ever spend enough time with you, Tracy. Because you’re much too selfish and immature. And I won’t be spending much time here, either, since I’m only handling things to get you released while you await your trial. After that, I simply do not have the time to take on a murder case.”
I rolled my eyes again and sat down. “Of course you don’t. Though once again, may I remind you, that I have not been arrested. Or charged with anything. Because I didn’t kill Betty. There isn’t going to be a murder trial. At least not for me, anyway.”
“Tracy is innocent,” Nana announced.
The detective leaned forward. “Not from where I stand. Maybe she’d like to explain that shiner she’s got. I still think she and Betty got into a fight. As near as I can tell, little missy, Betty must have walloped you pretty good.”
Whereby I glanced at my mother. “Betty didn’t hit me. My own mother did. In public, at the dance.”
“And she had better not lay a hand on you ever again!” Nana clenched her teeth and stood up.
My mother put a hand to her forehead as though she might faint. “How dare you both accuse me like that! I did no such thing!”
“And that only makes things even more interesting,” Detective Denton grinned. “Your mother beats you up and then you go and take it out on an innocent girl . . .”
I shook my head. “I did not kill Betty! But maybe we should talk about why you’re allowing a crowd in here while you’re questioning me. Because I would like Michael and my mother to leave.”
Detective Denton leaned back and grinned even wider. “Oh, please, by all means, let’s let these people stay. This little Marx Brothers’ routine is teaching me a lot about Tracy Truworth and why she had motivation to kill Betty Hoffman.”
Michael suddenly gulped. “Betty Hoffman? Did you say Betty Hoffman? Betty was living in that apartment building? And now she’s . . . dead?”
Detective Denton pulled out a notepad and flipped over a few pages. Then he started writing something before he raised an eyebrow to Michael. “So you did know the deceased, after all.”
Michael tugged at his collar. “I may have met her once or twice. At the Polynesian Room.”
I’m sure my eyes were about to pop out of my head when I turned to Michael. “When did you have time to go to the Polynesian Room? Or down to Galveston? I thought you were working day and night.”
He sniffed. “One must occasionally entertain for business purposes.”
Nana snorted and sat down again. “Business purposes! I’ll bet. It sounds to me like the only kind of business you were involved in was monkey business.”
“What a terribly common thing to say,” my mother retorted.
All the while, Detective Denton wrote more and more notes on his notepad. “This must be my lucky day. Neglected doll. Philandering fiancé. And mother who humiliates her in public. Boy, oh boy, the jury is absolutely gonna love this one. This will probably make the front page of the paper. I’ll be famous after this case.”
I groaned, wondering if there was any hope at all for me to get out of this gigantic hole I’d suddenly found myself in. A hole that my mother and ex-fiancé seemed to be digging just as fast as they could make their shovels move. The more they dug, the more Detective Denton was determined to see me hang. Did the facts in this case even matter? Or was he just trying to wear me down and get me to admit to a crime that I hadn’t even thought of committing? To think, all this had happened because I’d had momentary hopes of reviving Betty.
I was suddenly very thankful that I’d taken pictures of the crime scene. Because, judging by the way things were going, I might need all the evidence I could get to prove my innocence.
Detective Denton leaned forward and touched my hand. “So, Tracy, you say that Miss Hoffman was shot . . . where did you get the gun?”
“She made a comment about shooting me with her father’s gun the other day,” Michael added with a frown.
I let out another shriek. By now I was reaching the point where the thought of committing murder was actually starting to sound like a good idea, starting with my ex-fiancé.
I raised both eyebrows and stared at him. “What kind of a lawyer are you? Aren’t you supposed to come to my defense, instead of doing your level best to incriminate me?”
He sighed. “I am hardly a criminal lawyer, Tracy. Though I am well aware that sometimes it’s best to simply confess and throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Perhaps you could go for an insanity plea.”
My mother touched Michael’s arm. “Don’t worry, Michael. Insanity does not run in our family. Tracy will not produce any heirs who would turn out to be insane.”
This from a woman who was drunk and had just slapped her own daughter in front of an entire room full of people.
I shook my head in disbelief. “There won’t be any heirs because Michael and I are no longer engaged. And besides that, I’m not insane and I didn’t kill Betty.”
Nana threw her hands up in the air. “Tracy is not a murderer. How many times must I repeat it? I’m going to call my own lawyer.”
Just then the door to the already crowded room flew open wide. Speaking of insanity pleas, in strode none other than Sammy himself, a man whose hobbies included walking around with a box full of obituaries. As always, he wore his trench coat and fedora.
I stifled a moan. Of all the interrogation rooms in all the police stations in all the towns in all the world, why did this Humphrey Bogart look-alike have to walk into mine? He was all I needed to add to this group who was about to convict or commit me.
Detective Denton let out a laugh. “Now who do we have? Another character in this little Vaudeville Act? This is better than going to the movies.” He jerked a thumb at Sammy. “Especially since this new guy is a dead ringer for Sam Spade.”
That’s when I dropped my head into my hands. Could this night get any more bizarre?
Tracy Truworth’s mother has very definite ideas about appropriate activities to occupy a young lady’s time, and detective work is not one of them. Neither is singing in a nightclub or with a swing band, for that matter, but Tracy does all three in this novel!
Bad Day for a Bombshell is a cozy mystery that is firmly rooted in its 1941 time setting. It even captures the spirit of the books and movies of the era with its slightly larger-than-life characterisation and its love of dramatic effect rather than striving to be strictly realistic at all times. But that’s not to say there aren’t some serious elements to the book. After all, there is a war on, and Cindy Vincent doesn’t shy away from showing the emotional impact this has on her characters.
Tracy longs to follow in the footsteps of her literary heroine, Katie McClue (who sounds very much like a 1930s Nancy Drew), and luckily for her, many of the situations she finds herself in remind her of one of the numerous novels relating her heroine’s investigations. Titles such as The Case of the Shifty-eyed Stranger, The Case of the Terrifying Car Chase, and The Mystery at the Secondhand Store give Tracy all the inspiration she needs to spot a mystery in the making, and to know how best to proceed.
It also happens that she is recruited by Humphrey Bogart lookalike PI, Sammy Falcone – who was named by his mother long before Dalshiell Hammett wrote Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon into existence, thank you very much! He sees a lot of potential in Tracy Truworth, and though she doesn’t always emulate Katie McClue quite as successfully as she would like, Sammy’s not disappointed. He and ‘the kid’ are set to become a detective team vastly superior to the local police force.
But the story isn’t all about the mysterious bombshell. There are some family issues plaguing Tracy too: A fiancé who might as well be non-existent for all the attention he pays her; and a mother whose only ambition for her daughter is to have her married to said fiancé. A very public altercation prompts Tracy to leave home for a time and take up residence in her best friend’s flat, which just happens to be in the same building as the bombshell. Tensions run high for Tracy on both the personal and the professional front as she and Sammy work to get to the bottom of who killed the bombshell… and why.
Although I felt the narrative could have been tighter and more economical at times, this was a fun read, and I have to say I was thoroughly surprised by the poignant ending to the mystery of who killed the bombshell. There is also a little hint of romance for Tracy during the story, which makes any story better if you ask me! All in all, I will be looking forward to reading more of Tracy’s adventures in the future!
I received a copy of this novel Singing Librarian Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.
Genre: Adult, Christian, Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Publisher: Whodunit Press
Publication date: October 17, 2016
Number of pages: 340
About the Author
Cindy Vincent, M.A. Ed., is the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers, a mystery series for kids and cat-lovers that features the adventures of two black cat detectives. And yes, as she is often asked, Cindy used her own black cats, Buckley and Bogey, as the inspiration for the series, since they seem to run surveillance on her house each and every night. Cindy is also the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls, along with the Daisy Diamond Detective novels, which are a spin-off from the games. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines. Cindy is a self-professed “Christmas-a-holic,” and usually starts planning and preparing in March for her ever-expanding, “extreme” Christmas lights display every year . . . She is also looking forward to the release of the first book in her new Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., 1940s Homefront Mystery series, which is due out in the Fall of 2016.
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