Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Chicago,1931, U.S.A.


Tears of the Dragon

by Holly Baxter

The economic Depression finds the Browne family trying to maintain its middle class status. The third daughter, Elodie, luckily enjoys her new job as a radio script writer in the upscale Gower Building, the latest addition to Chicago’s lakeshore skyline. When her best friend is murdered and she thinks she knows something about the disappearance of someone who worked on the tenth floor, her innate curiosity and sense of justice lead her to try to uncover the perpetrators of the crimes. In the process, she clashes with attractive Lieutenant Archie Deacon, whose interest in Elodie becomes more romantic as the story unfolds.

Baxter rightly describes Prohibition Era Chicago as a city controlled by big league bootleggers, protected by the corrupt Chicago police, and by the pervasive internecine warfare between the various Syndicates (Bugs Moran and Al Capone). What mainly drives the plot, however, is the influence of China’s civil war on Chicago’s small, tight-knit Chinatown. Inexplicably, Baxter portrays the Chinese Communists who are attempting to raise money for their cause as villains, while casting those supporting Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang government as the good guys working to “preserve Chinese history,” and to “allow religious freedom,” and to “maintain the ideals of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s democracy.”

The survival strategies of the Browne family, which includes their radio program listening habits, provide welcome insights into domestic life in this economically tenuous time. The limited options for women to become power players in either the job market or in politics also becomes clear. Less successful is the fact that the plot narrative too often switches off and on between the various incidental characters rather than letting Elodie and Archie move it along on their own.

This is published writer Holly Baxter’s (aka Paula Gosling) first historical mystery.



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