Susanna Calkins: The Sign of the Gallows

I love this series set in 1660’s London, featuring former maid turned bookseller Lucy Campion.  London has weathered both the plague and the great fire, and the upheaval finds some women able to take work usually reserved for men.  While Lucy is not technically a bookseller’s apprentice, she does everything an apprentice would do.  In the 1660’s, bookselling also meant publishing, so Lucy works as a typesetter, a sometime writer of murder broadsheets, which were often sold at public executions, as well as working as a seller.  Her intelligence and connections to the wealthy Hargreaves family, her former employer, get her into some places the police cannot go. She’s also torn between two suitors – Constable Duncan and Adam Hargreaves. read more

Susanna Calkins: Murder Knocks Twice

Susanna Calkins had a wonderful series set in 17th century England, featuring maid turned bookseller Lucy Campion.  Those were slightly more serious in tone than this delightful new series launch from this talented writer.  Murder Knocks Twice is set in prohibition era Chicago, with all the attendant issues of the mob, the past war, and the depression coming into play.  Series heroine Gina Ricci is out of work and finds a job at a speakeasy through a friend.

She’s a little unsure about working there – she’s worried about what her father will think, for one thing – and for another, she’s replacing a girl who was killed and that makes her slightly wary. Calkins has a brisk story telling style, and she quickly establishes her setting and a wide array of characters.  She’s very good at delineating characters and making them memorable; I was never unsure or trying to remember who she was talking about, and to me, that’s the mark of a very good writer. read more