By Michael Kurland
Titan Books

toosoonIt seems that the era of the 1930’s is gaining in popularity in the mystery world, and if that particular time period flips your skirt, then the Alexander Brass series is one to add to your wish list post-haste.

Alexander Brass is a columnist with an office in the New York World newspaper, although he is syndicated across the country. And his particular brand of journalism is bringing the gossip and glamour of New York City to life for his readers. He’s a shrewd newspaperman, and a smart investigator with a vocabulary to rival Nero Wolfe. And his own sidekick is one Morgan Dewitt, our slightly naïve narrator for the series. Dewitt does some legwork for Brass, and while he’s no Archie Goodwin, Dewitt’s earnest nature certainly has charm. To round out Brass’s motley crew is Brass’s secretary Gloria, the cool blonde with an eidetic memory and no time for nonsense.

In TOO SOON DEAD, a suspicious character comes to see Brass, ultimately convincing Brass to hold on to an envelope of blackmail material for him: photographs of some of New York’s elite caught on film in the act, and not with their spouses. Brass immediately has one of his odd-job men named Ricky from the newspaper follow the suspicious man—only for Ricky to wind up dead in the office of a group of anti-Nazi German immigrants. Brass and his team dive head first into the investigation, and run into a whole cast of characters from blackmailing Nazis to nymphomaniac debutantes along the way.

THE GIRLS IN THE HIGH-HEELED SHOES finds Brass concerned with the disappearance of a hustler named Two Headed Mary that worked the Broadway theatre-going crowds, but had a reputation for helping out the chorus girls when they needed it. When Mary’s own daughter Sandra, herself a Broadway star, comes to Brass for help in finding Mary he can hardly turn her down—after all, there’s a great story here somewhere. But searching for Mary leads to a trail of bodies, and Brass and his team have to work fast to ensure that Mary isn’t the next one.

The books are thoroughly charming—the ambiance of the time period is perfectly set, and the main characters are nicely fleshed out and appealing. The secondary characters are wildly different from the first book to the second and offer refreshing and fascinating peeks into the lives of New Yorkers in the 1930’s. These are definitely characters I look forward to spending more time with, and the plots were original with appropriate twists. All I can say is, bring on more Brass!
Erica Ruth Neubauer