Cover Image: Murder Knocks Twice

Murder Knocks Twice

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I enjoyed reading this first book in a new historical cozy series. Gina has taken a new job as a cigarette girl in a Chicago Speakeasy.  While working there she discovers some family connections and a witnesses a murder. She sets out to solve the crime.  The author does a very good job with the speakeasy background. One of my favorite parts was all the fun drinks.  The characters are a lot fun and she also introduces many historical figures.  I did feel that the mystery was slow and rather weak.  It takes a long time for the murder to occur and there are not many clues or suspects.  The crime gets solved rather quickly at the end.  The writing is good and the book is easy read.  I do look for word to visiting The Third Door again and reading the next book in the series. Enjoy
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I ended up really enjoying this:) Gina takes a job as a cigarette girl in a speakeasy to help take care of her dad. This is 1929 in Chicago, where most speakeasy's are owned by mobsters. Gina's already taking the place of a young girl who was murdered a few weeks before she took the job but shortly after, she witnesses another murder. One that ends up being closer to her than she knows. Gina becomes slightly obsessed with finding out what happened to these two and why. However, things aren't about to become easy for her. I love cozy mysteries, especially ones set in the 20's. This had likable characters, a good storyline, and fun times. I will definitely be looking out for book 2!

*Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you netgalley for this opportunity.
I could not finish this book since it did not keep me interested. Maybe at a later time, but somehow not my cup of tea right now.
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The Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, Speakeasies, Flappers, Mobsters, The Great Depression and Corruption. Chicago had it all. Scary and glamorous, it was the place to be.
But it wasn’t all glitz and glamour for everyone. Times were hard, jobs were scarce and fear was a constant companion. People sometimes went to work at jobs and under conditions that were dangerous and illegal.
Gina Ricci lives in this world and needs money - money for drugs. Don’t judge. She needs money for the prescribed drugs for her ailing, out of work Father.
No luck seems to be turning into good luck when Gina lands a job at a speakeasy, The Third Door, as a cigarette girl. Assured that tips would be good, Gina sees a way off the emotional and financial rollercoaster she has been riding.
The speakeasy is a thrilling place full of The Who’s Who of Chicago, dancing to jazz, drinking fancy concoctions and entering this world only if they knew the secret password.
Soon Gina learns that all is not music and alcohol. The previous cigarette girl, Dorrie had died under mysterious circumstances. When Gina asks question about Dorrie, her coworkers tell her to mind her own business. That point is emphasized to Gina by Signora Castallazzo the “lady of stone and steel” owner of the Third Door.
Only in-house photographer, Marty Doyle helps Gina until Gina witnesses his murder.
Calkins novel evokes the sights and sounds of 1929 Chicago in a stylish murder mystery. The main characters are well developed and their dialogue seems authentic to the period. Gum cracking Gina is a person we’d like to meet again. Seems Calkins agrees as Murder Knocks Twice is labeled as Speakeasy Mystery #1.
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley. #NetGalley #MurderKnocksTwice
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MURDER KNOCKS TWICE by Susanna Calkins
The First Speakeasy Mystery

Times are tough in 1929 Chicago. With her father unable to work, Gina Ricci takes a job as a cigarette girl at a speakeasy called The Third Door. Gina needs the money and is determined to prove she's no rube and that she's tough enough to handle anything thrown at her. While taking a break she hears a noise, only to discover the speakeasy's photographer has been attacked. With his dying breath he gives her his camera telling her to hide it. Scared, Gina keeps quiet, but resolves to find out what Marty wanted her to hide and why. As she slowly starts to uncover the many secrets hidden by The Third Door Gina discovers that life is about to get a lot more dangerous.

MURDER KNOCKS TWICE starts slowly with the author throwing in lots of slag from the era making the dialogue sound a bit trite. The story, however, is compelling and the characters interesting. I found the narrative more and more compelling as I read on and by the end I was completely enamoured by it.

Gina Ricci is a likeable gum chewing protagonist who can take care of herself. When she finds herself out of her depths, she takes steps to rectify the situation. In this first Speakeasy Mystery she learns about her past, her family, and makes steps to ensure her own future.

MURDER KNOCKS TWICE is a keen historical mystery that brings the prohibition era to life. I enjoyed my immersion into the glamour, desperation, and mob influence of the times and I look forward to going back. I believe Billy Bottles has a Mary Pickford with my name on it!
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Chicagoan Gina Ricci takes care of her father, an ailing widower. Money is very tight. Palsy makes it hard for her father to repair broken appliances, a task that increasingly falls to Gina. Her schoolfriend Louise Smith, now bobbed-hair Lulu, tells her about a possible opening for a cigarette girl at The Third Door speakeasy. Gina is intrigued.

It’s darb, Lulu had said, striking a glamorous pose. Then she’d dropped the affectation, adding more earnestly, Tips are great, I swear. There had been a weariness behind Lulu’s eyes when she’d spoken, and the memory of the redhead’s sly smile now gave Gina pause.

‘Darb’ is 1920s slang for excellent – an example of how Calkins infuses Murder Knocks Twice, her debut Speakeasy Mystery, with authenticity. Prohibition made alcohol consumption unlawful between 1920 and 1933: “When Prohibition hit the Chicago streets in 1920, speakeasies started appearing almost overnight. These hidden houses of spirits and socializing gave the public the opportunity to drink, sometimes eat and be merry.” This blithe description overlooks the criminality that was rampant in speakeasy culture. Chicago’s notorious gangster Al Capone controlled “over 10,000 speakeasies in Chicago,” although The Third Door is not one of them.

Gina approaches her interview with trepidation. On a cold January afternoon in 1929, shivering in a grotty, smelly alley, she navigates an elaborate system of knocks and passwords to gain access. The Third Door is gorgeous, filled with huge chandeliers, a grand piano, plush velvet furniture, portraits, and paintings. The forbidden atmosphere appeals to Gina: “small candles flickered in glasses on every table, adding a sense of magic and allure to the smoky haze.”

Owner Signora Castallazzo, described by Lulu as “the lady of stone and steel”,  is the one person Gina must impress. She’ll only get one chance to make a good impression and unfortunately, Gina’s outfit is better suited to an office than a speakeasy. When the Signora tells Gina that she seems sweet, Gina knows that’s the kiss of death.

Putting her hand on her hip, Gina struck a pose like Clara Bow in It. “I’m no dumbbell,” she said. “No one’s gonna sweet-talk me.”

Even though Gina felt like an idiot, the Signora seemed to approve, for she gave the slightest smile. “Come with me,” she said. “Let’s find you something more appropriate to wear.”

Gina is no idiot. She spiffs up nicely and sells Lucky Strikes and Sobranies to the gents while Barkeep Billy informs her, “Marlboros for the ladies. Mild as May, you can tell them. Ivory tips to protect the lips.” Gina drinks in the repartee while lighting up smokes. Many of her clients are financiers, “talking nonstop about stock prices and market shares.” She’s ignorant of “the stock market and speculation”, but it “was clear that the rich were getting richer while the poor got even poorer, and that’s how the rich people liked it.”

Gina learns that Dorrie, the cigarette girl she replaced, died under the proverbial mysterious circumstances.  Some heroines are TSTL (too stupid to live), ignoring the peril that surrounds them but not Gina. She keeps asking questions, even though she keeps her inquiries on the down low. Marty Doyle, the speakeasy’s in-house photographer, takes a shine to her. Marty takes pictures of famous folks, but he also photographs the staff, all the while “writing in a small notebook that he kept in his breast pocket.” It turns out that Gina is Marty’s cousin’s daughter, which is news to her. He doesn’t like Molly’s daughter working in a speakeasy, but Gina has no choice, telling Marty that, “It’s up to me to take care of everything, to put food on the table, to pay the rent.”

Tragically, a few days later Gina witnesses Marty’s murder. She asks him who attacked him but he’s beyond help. He claws at his coat and with a last burst of energy, says “camera” and after she pulls it out of his pocket, he tells her to hide it: “his breath was growing shallower and more pained.” She agrees, and then he dies. Gina’s talent at fixing appliances serves her well as she learns how to operate a camera and develop pictures.

The first story of a new series sets out a larger world for the protagonists to explore. Gina doesn’t intend to always be a cigarette girl – she’s fascinated by photography. She ponders the intricate arrangement between the ‘legal’ teahouse on the floor above The Third Door: why do the cops look the other way? When Marty dies, Gina is scared and isolated; she fears she can’t trust her co-workers let alone the police. But Miss Ricci is intelligent and intrepid. She’ll figure out who killed Marty even if she does it on her own.

Hold on tight readers, it’s going to be a bumpy ride; the stock-market crash that will trigger The Great Depression is less than a year away. How will that affect The Third Door? I’m looking forward to Gina’s next adventure in the Chicago underworld, perhaps looking through the lens of camera rather than selling smokes.
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This is the first book in a new series set in Prohibition-era Chicago. Gina Ricci gets a job as a cigarette girl in a notorious speakeasy to support herself and her widowed father, whose health is failing. As she learns the ropes at the Third Door, Gina starts poking around the death of the woman whom she replaced. She also figures out that her new bosses are connected to the pasts of both her parents and the extended family from which she's estranged. I enjoyed getting to know Gina and unraveling her family story, but I wished the murderer wasn't so glaringly obvious and that Gina didn't just blunder around drawing attention to herself without any consequences. I might try reading the next book in this series, but I'm not sure.
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This is what I think would be classified as a "cozy" mystery (as it's not a thriller or particularly gruesome), which is not normally my thing, but I have a special place in my heart for 1920s Chicago murder stories. When I was in high school and fully obsessed with Bob Fosse and all things "Chicago", I did my history fair project on the real murders that inspired Velma and Roxie's characters and somewhere I still have the book the journalist (Maureen Dallas Watkins) wrote about the real murders. When Susanna Calkins told me she was working on a book set in the late 1920s in a Chicago speakeasy, I couldn't wait to read it.  

Despite not being my usual reading fare, I thoroughly enjoyed this and at times didn't want to put it down. The language, while true to the period, took a little getting used to (I'm not used to reading books with "jeepers!" and the like as dialogue, but I really don't ever read anything that is set pre-1960), but once I got accustomed to it I was able to settle right in. Normally I'm able to predict with alarming accuracy the outcome of mysteries -- I figured out the Gone Girl twist about 30 pages in, same with Girl on a Train, etc. This one I never figured out, maybe because it's not a novel setting up twist after twist with the intent to shock the reader, but instead it's a well-written narrative with developed characters and things unfold naturally. The protagonist, Gina, becomes a bit of an amateur sleuth during the course of the book, which could have gone in an over the top direction, but it's entirely believable the way it's done in this novel. 

Full disclosure: I know the author (she was my grad school professor for one of my classes 8 years ago and a current colleague at Northwestern, but in a different school/department), but that has no impact on my review. I haven't read any of her other works (aside from a short story that was part of an anthology from Chicago writers), because her usual genre isn't my jam. However, I love 1920s Chicago and murder mysteries, so I wanted to give this a shot, and I'm glad I did. 

Thanks Netgalley for the ARC!
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I had super high hopes for this one. I love anything that has to do with a speakeasy! This was a really slow burn for me. I had a really hard time getting into it and it still struggled to grab my attention once the mystery picked up.
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This is a promising first book in the new Speakeasies Mystery series, set in 1929 Prohibition Era Chicago. The sleuth sells ciggies at a speakeasy.

Though the book started slowly, I thought, ultimately, it really picked up and I would certainly continue to read future books in this series. As a lifelong Chicagoland resident, I love reading books set in Chicago, particularly historical Chicago books. 

This is a book and series I would recommend!!
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This is a mystery which is set in the roaring Twenties and is primarily situated in a speak-easy in Chicago. It is the first in a series.

Gina is a young woman who needs a job so that she can help her father who has increasingly been unable to make a living. Her friend tells her about a job in a speak-easy and suggests that Gina should apply for the job. Gina does and takes right to the work.

When a murder occurs, Gina is drawn to solve it because of who the victim is as well as having seen the crime.

The language is what we currently accept as that of the time. It is what I have seen from movies from the period and may very well be exactly how people spoke.

Crime boss Al Capone is mentioned numerous times. There are historical references to individuals and to events and to the individuals who wanted Prohibition to continue. It was a fairly quick read and the “dialect” was not difficult to follow. I enjoyed the plot and the characters and look forward to other books by this author.

I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
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Historical mysteries are my favorites and to find a new series as good as this one with book one, well, this is a series I will not want to miss.  1920's Chicago isn't a time period I'm very familiar with and boy, did Gina give me an education. Gina Ricci has lots of spunk and takes a job as a cigarette girl at the Third Door speakeasy. Times are tough and she is the breadwinner for her father and herself. All of the sights and sounds, the glitz, glamour and danger come alive for the reader as Gina makes her way through this new world. Crime lurks everywhere and she soon finds out what happened to the girl who had her job previously. She is warned to be careful by Marty, the photographer but then he is murdered and Gina will be lucky to avoid becoming the killers next victim. Of course, that means doing her own investigating. 
Somehow I had missed other books by Susanna Calkins and now they are on my TBR list. The characters are very well developed, the research of the period feels accurate and the mystery was all that I hope for in my reading. Gina entertained me no end and I hope she has much more to share with us.
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Calkins evokes the sights, sounds and smells of the Chicago days of speakeasies, Al Capone and Clarence Darrow.  Her gum-cracking heroine, Gina Ricci, is hired to work at a gin joint as a cigarette girl, and before she knows it, she has discovered a long lost relative, and a pile of secrets to be unraveled.  We don’t get many bread-crumbs leading up the uncovering of the bad guys in this novel, and the ending feels a bit rushed and unmotivated, but overall this is a fast-moving, entertaining historical read.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Murder Knocks Twice is the first book in the A Speakeasy Murder series.

It’s January 1929 and Gina Ricci has been looking for a job and jobs are mighty scarce in Chicago.  Gina’s father has repaired electrical appliances and radios, but with his failing health and not be able to work, Gina needs to find a job to pay the rent and put food on the table for them.  One day, Gina is shopping at the grocery store, she runs into Lulu, a friend who she hasn’t seen in years.  Lulu who works at The Third Door, a speakeasy tells Gina that the speakeasy is looking for a cigarette girl and that she should go and apply for the job.  Gina meets with the owner, Signora Castallazzo and quickly finds herself the newest cigarette girl at The Third Door.

For the most part, she enjoys the job and is quite impressed with clientele that frequent the speakeasy, the ex-servicemen who play poker in the backroom.  But she wishes that the club’s jazz pianist Ned, ease up on being so friendly towards her and also wishes the club’s photographer, Marty Doyle, would be a little more of a conversationalist.  She is also impressed how easily the speakeasy can be converted into a reputable business very quickly and it’s patrons to safety in case they would be raided.  A lot of the talk among her fellow workers is the way the previous girl met her demise.  

Then one evening Gina is in the alley behind the speakeasy when she hears a disturbance.  As she follows the moaning she comes across the brutally beaten body of Marty Doyle.  As she bends down to talk to him, he reaches inside his coat and hands her his camera and his dying words were: keep this safe and trust no one.

She believes there must be something incriminating on the roll of film that is in the camera.  But how will she get the film developed and can she get it done before someone finds out that she had Marty’s camera.

I really enjoyed this new historical series.  It is a well-plotted and told story that moves at a fairly quick pace.  There is a well-developed cast of believable characters and I’m really interested in where the series will be going.
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Murder Knocks Twice pulls you into the danger and excitement of 1920s Chicago from the first page and doesn’t let up until the last. Calkins’ protagonist, Gina Ricci is a ‘trust no one’ woman of her time, and that instinct serves her well when a new friend, and long-lost cousin, is murdered at the speakeasy where they both work. In a world where what you know can get you killed, Gina keeps her cards close as she unravels the clues that will lead her to the murderer. A great first book in an exciting new series.
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Roaring Twenties Cozy Mystery
Life was much different during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. However, murder remains the same! This is a grand peek inside life during the 1920s, especially inside the life of a twenty-something young girl. This is a great and twisted murder mystery with Chicago gangs, speak-easy joints, crooked cops, Women's Temperance groups, and  all that the1920s had to offer – good and bad! I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
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Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins is a delightful romp thru old Chicago in the wake of The Great War. Its the time of prohibition,  speakeasies, flappers and cigarette girls. Gina Ricci is one of those girls. Times are hard and she takes a job at The Third Door as a cigarette girl...and runs smack dab into mayhem, mystery and murder. And for readers the fun is just beginning. Gina prides herself on being able to take care of herself.  Even though she shows some vulnerability, especially in the beginning. She's an emotionally strong, wise cracking, gum chewing girl of her times. I loved her! Susanna Calkins also populates the book with a whole cast of secondary characters that are colorful and well defined. I look forward to seeing them more in future books. There is even a hint of romance in Gina's future. There are enough misdirections in the plot to keep you guessing as to "who dunnit" before the story comes to a surprising and entertaining conclusion. I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series. 
Thank you Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was not my cup of tea - the premise is excellent and it was drew me to the book in the first place - murder in a speakeasy in Prohibition Chicago? WHAT'S not to like right? A lot let me tell you. 
My biggest complaint is the writing - it is tepid, extremely slow moving and really didn't hold my attention at all. It was pretty difficult for me to finish this. I liked the MC and was hoping for a better character with more depth and the other character I really enjoyed ends up murdered, so there were few characters that I enjoyed as well.  I was hoping for so much with this and was greatly disappointed. 

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin Press/Minotaur Books for providing this ARC in return for an honest review.
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I received this from for a review. 

1920's Chicago speakeasy. Gina Ricci takes on a job as a cigarette girl to earn money for her ailing father and stumbles into a murder. As Gina searches for answers, she’s pulled deeper into the shadowy truths.

The writing was ok and the story moved along just fine, this is basically a clean story with no gory descriptions or extreme vulgar language. But, I don't know, I just got really tired of the many 'what if this or what if that' kind of questions. 

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"The first mystery in Susanna Calkins’ captivating new series takes readers into the dark, dangerous, and glittering underworld of a 1920s Chicago speakeasy.

Gina Ricci takes on a job as a cigarette girl to earn money for her ailing father - and to prove to herself that she can hold her own at Chicago’s most notorious speakeasy, the Third Door. She’s enchanted by the harsh, glamorous world she discovers: the sleek socialites sipping bootlegged cocktails, the rowdy ex-servicemen playing poker in a curtained back room, the flirtatious jazz pianist and the brooding photographer - all overseen by the club’s imposing owner, Signora Castallazzo. But the staff buzzes with whispers about Gina’s predecessor, who died under mysterious circumstances, and the photographer, Marty, warns her to be careful.

When Marty is brutally murdered, with Gina as the only witness, she’s determined to track down his killer. What secrets did Marty capture on his camera - and who would do anything to destroy it? As Gina searches for answers, she’s pulled deeper into the shadowy truths hiding behind the Third Door."

Chicago during the 1920s has always fascinated me, mainly because that's when my grandmother used to sneak away from school and hang out at all the speakeasies... I'm sure if she would approve of this new series. Also can we say cover lust?
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