by Alice Duncan
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781594149597
Date: 18 May 2011 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
East meets West in 1926 Los Angeles when transplanted Bostonian Mercy Allcutt tries to create a new independent identify by working for a private investigator, Ernie Templeton. Mercy's mother, a wealthy Bostonian matron, abhors the idea and tries to bring Mercy to her senses without success. Mercy, looking for Ernie after he missed a morning appointment and had failed to return to the office, goes to the home of his client, Mrs. Persephone Chalmers only to find the woman dead. She also discovers Ernie bound and gagged in an upstairs bedroom.
When the police arrive, they don't believe Mercy about Ernie and suspect him of killing the woman. Furious, Mercy swings into action determined to prove his innocence and find the killer. Ernie had left the police force because of the corruption rife among some officers. In previous efforts to help Ernie solve murders, she put herself in mortal danger so he demands she leave the murder to the police.
In each of the Mercy Allcutt mysteries, Duncan picks another aspect of Los Angeles life, long before it grew in into the present megalopolis. In this one, she features an evangelist, Sister Emmanuel, similar to Aimee Semple McPherson and others like her. Mrs. Chalmers, the murder victim has become active in the church and anxious to help it grow. Her husband adores his wife and doesn't mind her generous contributions to the church.
Mrs. Chalmers has encouraged her good friend Mrs. Pinkney to join the church, however, Mr. Pinkney objects and tries to discourage her. When Mercy begins to consider suspects, she puts Mr. Pinkney at the top of the list. All too soon, her list of suspects begins to dwindle leaving only Ernie.
Duncan uses the California setting and the period to create a rich tapestry of the rambunctious LA. during its early history as a movie town. Both aspects figure prominently in the Mercy Allcutt mysteries. In Fallen Angels, as well as evangelists, both John Gilbert and Renee Adoree are featured. Previous novels, Angel's Flight and Lost Among the Angels featured among others: spiritualists, gossip columnists, kidnapers, movie stars, and assorted criminals. Duncan has another Allcutt mystery, Angels of Mercy, planned for the near future. She is also a prolific romance and mystery author. Recommended for those who like period mysteries with a misguided, spunky heroine determined to stand on her own and risk her life to uncover the villains.