Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

1947 Pennsylvania, United States


The Victory Dance Murder

A Homefront Mystery

by M. T. Jefferson

Given the fact that 26 year old Kate is a devotee of mystery stories, it should be no surprise that she begins to figure out who might be behind the murders of an alarming number of people in her small, normally peaceful, town. Her investigations are encouraged by Scrappy McFarland, the engaging, stereotypical editor of the local newspaper. Eventually a trap is laid, with Kate inadvertently becoming the bait.

The narrative is written in the “cozy” style, reflecting the life and leisure of folks living in small town America as the country is thrown into full scale war. The plot is sweet rather than edgy, tarnished by the unconvincing resolution of the murders, and the heroine who, in midst of a life threatening moment, calmly quizzes her captor and even chuckles during the exchange. Woven into the story is an almost laundry list of period references - the songs on the jute box, the drinks offered at the soda fountain, the favorite radio programs and current movies. The war intrudes via depressing battle accounts and local arguments over the propriety of holding a dance in wartime. Also mentioned are the growing shortages of goods, rationing of energy resources, and patriotic exhortations preached from the pulpit of Kate’s church.

Gender issues are raised when we learn that Kate’s G.I. fiancee, away serving his country, had attended college and law school while Kate, foregoing college, has been waiting for him by working as a typist. “That was different, he was a man,” she explains to a friend. Wartime changes are hinted at, however, when Kate finds a new job as a welder. While deemed inappropriate by her father, this move is greeted with relief by the hard pressed boss of the precision parts factory which now must produce machine gun mounts and bomb sight settings rather than vacuum cleaner parts.

The author provides no background information. The second book in the series is “Swing for a Crime.”



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