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THE BODY IN THE BALLROOM
by R.J. Koreto
Crooked Lane Books, June 2018
293 pages
$26.99
ISBN: 1683315774


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the second of a series, Alice Roosevelt returns to her sleuthing ways when a partygoer drinks a deadly cocktail at a high-society ball. Using her contacts—she is the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt, after all—Alice drags her bodyguard, Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair—into the investigation.

Lynley Brackton drank the same punch that everyone else did at the party—a longtime tradition at the party, even though it wasn't to most people's tastes. But it especially wasn't to Brackton's taste, as his glass had the deadly poison wolfsbane. Police focus in on a black mechanic, Peter Carlyle, as the suspect, although there is no evidence to support this theory. Both Alice and St. Clair know Peter is innocent and being targeted mostly for the color of his skin, and so they set out to catch the real killer. Along the way, they uncover a shadowy group called the XVII, influential men who want to keep immigrants out of New York City; a secret that is being kept by Jewish financiers (themselves in the outsider circle among the high-society types); and a young couple who is trying to keep their mixed-race marriage from being discovered.

Alice, a headstrong 18-year-old Alice, thrives on excitement. To the exasperation of her aunt Anna Cowles, who is hosting her in New York City, Alice is soon inviting journalists and policemen to her aunt's home, while also inserting herself wherever there is information to gain, from the parlors of the wealthy to the worst neighborhoods of early 20th-century New York. St. Clair, the book's narrator, barely keeps up with Alice, saving her from harm more than once.

Much is changing in the city, with automobiles still sharing the streets with horse-drawn carriages. But the biggest changes are perhaps the demographics of the city, a growing mix of Irish, Italians, Chinese, blacks, and many others—and not everyone is as open-minded and welcoming as the Roosevelts and St. Clair.

The book is fiction, of course, but one hopes that Alice, who in real life was a rebellious teen, would also have stood up for the disenfranchised had she faced these same circumstances. Historical fiction buffs can't go wrong with THE BODY IN THE BALLROOM.

§ Lourdes Venard is an independent editor who divides her time between New York and Maui.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, June 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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