by Marlowe Benn
In 1924 Manhattan, Julia Kydd isn’t interested in politics and the women’s movement. Her eyes are focused on her fledgling private press which she hopes to finance when she receives her inheritance at age 25, just a few days away. Her older stepbrother, Philip, fulfilled his obligation to send her an allowance over the years, but will he fight Julia’s right for control of her money on her birthday? Then lawyers intervene, questioning her right to any money at all.
When Julia’s friend’s sister, Naomi, apparently commits suicide, Julia is thrust into a maelstrom of male privilege and control and the women’s movement’s fight for fair and equal wages, the right to own property, and the right to manage their own finances. Naomi rejected her brother’s control , preferring poverty and autonomy. Naomi’s life was a turbulent and conflicted battle. How Naomi died raises the stakes for an ugly, dark family and for Julia as well who finds herself in similar circumstances.
Without her inheritance, Julia can be independent and poor or look for an affluent man to marry and lose all control over her life. She does not believe Naomi committed suicide either on purpose or by accident as Naomi’s family insists. Philip proposes a wager that if Julia can prove Naomi was murdered, then he would drop his claims to her inheritance. Julia takes on the challenge
Independent Julia with her love of type fonts; her stepbrother, bored, sophisticated Philip; the enigmatic and fierce Naomi; and bubblehead Glennis are all well-drawn characters. The plot moves along well with insights into the women’s movement ,the motives of women who oppose it, and the frustration of so many women forced to submit to their fathers, brothers, and husbands with no right to own or do anything without a man’s permission. All provide a sobering reminder of the battle still being fought for women’s rights. They highlight Julia and Naomi’s need to live independently.
I particularly enjoyed Julia’s loving appreciation of certain type fonts and their designers, Goudy, Garamond, Baskerville, and others. I press a few keys on my computer to get any one of a hundred or more fonts. In 1924, Julia’s time, a printer had to buy cases of the lead letters in different sizes and styles, painstakingly set them into words and paragraphs, and then tackle a balky and quirky printing press to produce a book.
Relative Fortunes has more texture and depth than the usual mystery. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next in the series.
Eileen Haavik McIntire will be participating in the following events:
Mar. 28-29, 2020 - Annual Conference, Maryland Writers' Association, College Park, MD.
Blog: Naming a Character for a Friend
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“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”
— William Faulkner
I love mysteries, secrets, strange people and weird places and hope to share what I find interesting with you on this website and in the mysteries I write.
For more about my mysteries, go to the 90s Club and the Shadow Series pages.
- Eileen Haavik McIntire
Comments from reviewers about my books:
The Two-Sided Set-Up - “McIntire’s latest novel is a fast-paced and multilayered thriller with well-developed characters and colorful settings...Most of the action is set in Virginia, and McIntire does a fine job of capturing the rhythm of its small-town life, from the friendliness of local business to the calm of quiet nights on the water. An engaging tale for aficionados of psychological suspense.” - Kirkus Reviews
Shadow of the Rock – “A riveting tale of time and humanity, highly recommended.” (Midwest Book Review) “A bold adventure....Chapters move quickly in a mixture of danger, excitement, and pure enjoyment...” (Foreword Reviews).
The 90s Club & the Hidden Staircase – “With plenty of humor and its own original tale . . .a must” for readers of cozy mysteries. (Midwest Book Review)
The 90s Club & the Whispering Statue - “A fun read....nostalgia and...social commentary, wrapped up in an engaging mystery novel.” (Foreword Reviews)
The 90s Club & the Secret of the Old Clock – “An impressively well crafted and thoroughly entertaining mystery that plays fair with the reader from beginning to end,” (Midwest Book Review)