Cover Image: Fortune Favors the Dead

Fortune Favors the Dead

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Willowjean Parker is the right hand woman to Ms. Lillian Pentecost lady detective.  Having run away to join a travelling circus Willowjean is a resourceful woman making her way in the world.  They meet when Willowjean inadvertently helps Ms. Pentecost with a case she gets hired on as an assistant this is the start of a beautiful partnership.  The Collins case is this tale a woman is bludgeoned to death in her home at a party.  With a house  full of guests and with many having a motive this is a case that challenges the detectives.  
I just love the characters and the historical feel of the book.  The setting, feel and characters all feel very much of the time that the book was set in.  The mystery is intriguing and you never know quite  what anyone's play is.  You will be engaged to the final page of this book.
Was this review helpful?
Fortune Favors the Dead is a mystery novel for those looking for a LGBT lead during a time when being gay was a literal crime during the 1940s. Set right before WWII, WillowJean Parker, aka Will, takes a position working for a well know female private detective, Lillian Pentacost, days after she commits a crime in front of Lillian. Will, the narrator, discusses a case that occurred a few years into her service for Lillian Pentacost. One, that changes the history of their working relationship and sets Will on a course of her own.  The case is that of the Collins family,  the suicide and subsequent murder of the well-off patriarch and matriarch mere months apart from each other. Fortune Favors the Dead has plot twists and turns throughout that leave you unsure of who did what all until the very end.
Was this review helpful?
The premise of the book was interesting (especially as it is set in the 1940s)-it features an aging female detective and her scrappy ex-circus assistant. I really wanted to like this book. The locked door mystery was interesting, the snippets about the earlier lives of both women provided some amusement, but the end product didn't live up to my expectations. Parts of the story felt a bit overdone-too much, too soon. The account is written from the recollections of the assistant ("Will" Parker)-the Dr. Watson to Lillian Pentecost's Sherlock Holmes. All is solved in the end, but it felt like it took way too long to get there. The pairing of the women has possibilities, I am kind of looking forward to a second installment.
Was this review helpful?
post-WW2, private-investigators, murder-investigation, NYC, historical-fiction, historical-research, women-sleuths

WillowJean Parker has a lot of things in common with Archie Goodwin: swift critical thinking and a fun chameleonish personality, to start with. Having escaped from home she made the circus folk her family until they urged her to take the position offered her by the unimposing but famous lady detective in New York City who would use those practical talents and add even more to her repertoire. This case is a locked room mystery involving a wealthy family, a lot of secrets, and a woman who inveigled a place for herself in the family as a kind of medium. There are an abundance of interesting characters but few viable suspects except for the ghost (according to the medium). It takes a lot of due diligence, dancing around the law enforcement involvement, and discreet humor to solve the case with as few negative complications as possible.
I requested and received a free ebook copy from Doubleday Books via NetGalley. Thank you!
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. Willajean (Will) Parker has been taken under the wing of famous woman detective, Lilian Pentecost. Pentecost needs a right-hand woman to help her with  her cases, as her multiple sclerosis often keeps her from doing all she wants and needs to do.

The book begins with their meeting, when Will saves Lilian from a killer, and Lilian saves Will from being charged by the police. The two negotiate a partnership, and Lilian begins to teach Will and pay for her training to become a private detective. The story then jumps three years to share the case of Abigail Collins, who died in a locked room, the same room where her husband had died a year before. 

I loved the fact that Will is a lesbian, and is comfortable in her skin, wearing suits or men's clothes as much as she can. The friendship between Will and Lilian is one I enjoyed reading - sometimes Will is like a daughter, worrying about Lilian, and other times they are equal colleagues, working together to solve the mystery. There is another same-sex relationship in the book, but sharing it would be a big spoiler!

However, the writing style of Spotswood wasn't my favorite. It could be that I don't love hard-boiled mysteries, and this is supposed to be an homage to that style of writing. The characters use slang and language that is typical of the 1940s, and sometimes that interrupted my reading rhythm. The story was good, but not great. At first, I wasn't enamored of the characters, but they grew on me. I would read another book about Will and Lilian, but wouldn't rush to read the next one or pre-order it.
Was this review helpful?
What a fun mystery read into 1940s NYC.  I love the strong female leads, and the well paced story.  Definitely a great read.
Was this review helpful?
A romp of a mystery set in 1940s New York.  A female Holmes and Watson duo solving a very twisted and layered murder.  Very cinematic with great writing and quirky characters.
Loved it.  Hope it's the start of a new series.
Thanks Net Galley for the early read.
Was this review helpful?
This book had fun characters and a good story. The time period was interesting and will appeal to a lot of readers. It's a good start for what will be a series, I am sure, of the adventures of these characters
Was this review helpful?
I've already recommended this book to the Sam Spade lovers in my Bring Your Own Book Club. Will Parker hits all the right notes as not only a sassy sidekick, but a savvy detective in training.
Was this review helpful?
Set in 1942 New York,  Willowjean Parker found herself working security at a Manhattan building site. A former circus roadie and jack of all trades, she ends up saving the life of a woman by knifing a man. Cleared of the murder, Will finds herself in the employ the woman, Lillian Pentecost, whose life she saved. Ms. Pentecost is the top private investigator of her day and offered Will a job as an assistant. Ms. Pentecost is struggling with multiple sclerosis and some days are better than others.  Jobs varied from the small to the large. They they were hired to find out who killed the widowed wife of an industrialist. The woman was found with a gashed skull, caused by a crystal ball used by the medium, Ariel Belestrade. From there, the plot thickens as the police and Ms. Pentecost strive to solve the murder.

Will's favorite books to read are detective stories and this story is written in that slangy, fast-moving style.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the protagonist's voice. A fast, gripping read. Unfortunately, it was marred by anachronisms (after a mention of ZIP codes 18 years too soon, I started questioning other details.). Lots of fun. Hoping for sequels!
Was this review helpful?
You know an author has a talent for creating likable characters when, only three chapters in, you begin mentally writing future scenes involving those characters. While none of the scenes I composed while walking my dog came to pass, Mr. Spotswood’s future scenes more than compensated. Fortune Favors the Dead is an exciting, absorbing, and sparkling debut that, one very much hopes, is the foundation of a new series.

In addition to being filled with terrific characters, the novel has a solid mystery told at an unflagging pace, a sweet, daring-for-the-1940s romance, the requisite surprises and red herrings, and a tone that shifts easily and naturally between light and dark. It’s all set down by Will Parker, our indomitable narrator-heroine, in snappy, colorful, page-turning prose.

As is frequently the case, Conan Doyle’s template for private detective mystery novels is followed here. We have a Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and even a potential Moriarty, though three of Spotswood’s four are females, and his Lestrade – Lieutenant Lazenby – is refreshingly far above the clueless inspector (and his kin in the genre) in competence. There’s even a version of the Baker Street Irregulars in the Saturday morning visitors Ms. Pentecost assists, and who in turn provide her with information relating to her cases. Interestingly, Ms. Pentecost* is a less clever Holmes (but who isn’t?), and her contributions to this murder mystery are generally secondary to those of Miss Parker, our Watson. But Parker (whose love of pulp detective fiction I identify with) is much more than just a narrator admiringly relating her employer’s feats – she is unmistakably the star of the show. Her immensely engaging personality, her resolve and resourcefulness, and her mistakes, drive the plot and keep our eyes glued to the pages.

I was initially drawn to Fortune Favors the Dead when I discovered that Stephen Spotswood is the husband of Jessica Spotswood, the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy which I thoroughly enjoyed. Clearly, the Muses have favored the Spotswood household!

* I waited in vain for Lillian Pentecost to utter the phrase “the spirit moved me”.
Was this review helpful?
Willowjean Parker begins working with Lillian Pentecost after helping her out of a jam. Will previously worked for the circus but Lillian sees promise in her and takes her on as an assistant. A definite pulp fiction, crime novel feel. I enjoyed the female protagonists and villains. Not many damsels in distress here! Feels like the beginning of a series and I would read more.
Was this review helpful?
After the Collins family matriarch, Abigail, is bashed in the head to death by a crystal ball, her relatives ask Lillian Pendergast to investigate her murder. This is not the first death recently. Alistair Collins shot himself last year.  Before her death, Abigail was seeing controversial psychic, Ariel Belstrade. Too add more problems to her plate, Abigail’s daughter, Rebecca begins hitting on WillowJean Parker, Lillian’s assistant and successor. Will Lillian be able to solve the case? Will she be hiring a new successor? Full of murder, intrigue, and mystery, readers will be drawn easily into the story. The characters are likable, intriguing, and engaging. Fans of mystery, adventure, and historical fiction will enjoy reading this book.
  Please note: This was a complementary review copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No financial compensation was received.
Was this review helpful?
It was 1942 and WillowJean Parker, on a break from her circus gig, was working security at a Manhattan building site.She ended up knifing a man who was preparing to shoot a woman. Once she was cleared of the murder, the woman, Lillian Pentecost, offered Will a job as her assistant. At the time,  Ms.Pentecost was the top woman private investigator in NYC. She was also suffering from multiple sclerosis. 
For  next 3 years, Will proved indispensable to Ms. Pentecost. Then they were hired to find out who killed the recently widowed wife of a prominent industrialist. The industrialist had committed suicide weeks before.
Will and Ms. Pentecost spent weeks investigating before they finally solved the mystery.
This book was written in the style of the 1940s detective stories and told from the point of view of Will. It is full of slang and very fast moving. Lots of historical references as well. 
This ARC was provided by Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
As narrators go, Willowjean "Will" Parker ranks right up there with Flavia de Luce and Scout Finch. Motherless as a child, wise beyond her years.

As stories go, "Fortune Favors the Dead" pays homage to Nero Wolfe. Will is Archie, the wise cracking sidekick who runs the office, has an eye for the ladies and lives in a big house in New York City with a brilliant employer who has physical limitations.. The head of detectives visits the house regularly. There's a live-in gourmet cook.

As mysteries go, this one has appealing elements. Will's circus background. New York in the 1940s. Seances.

As sequels go, let's hope Stephen Spotswood receives the encouragement he deserves.
Was this review helpful?
I hope this is the first in a new series.!  A former young female cirky (circus) jack of all trades is thrown into a crime investigation with a well-known older female detective.  Using young pluck and old methodology, the two solve a murder in post WWII New York City.  Interesting cast of characters and twisty plot keeps the reader guessing.
Was this review helpful?
Well constructed mystery with multiple levels and twists.  They final resolution of the core mystery is not what I would have expected - a more complex web of interconnected plots that keep one engaged.  The reader does not know until the last chapter what the underlying mystery really is.  I quite liked the interesting and diverse cast of characters.  There was an Agatha Christie - like feel to the plot lines.  Many clues are dropped throughout the story finally coming together at the end in ways that I could not see clearly as I read along.  Looking back, they were all there but place well enough to not lead you to the denouements until you are there.  An enjoyable read for anyone who likes mysteries, especially those with a nice level of diversity rather than the traditional genre.  One weakness in the book was they overlay of the "hard-boiled" detective genre.  It detracted from the over flow rather than added to it.   The strong female characters in a novel set in the time frame it was, was a big plus for me in being attracted to the book.   There was plenty of "meat" in the strong female characters without it.
Was this review helpful?
This is a fantastic debut. Willowjean Parker is an engaging and funny narrator for the mysteries she and Lillian Pentecost solve together. I was sucked into this book from the first pages and didn't want to put it down. It's not often to find queer characters at the heart of books set in the 1940's and it was wonderful to see them here.
Was this review helpful?
Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood, 336 pages

Willowjean Parker is a circus roadie when she meets esteemed detective Lillian Pentecost in a New York junkyard. Soon, Will, as she prefers to be called, is Ms. Pentecost's right-hand woman, solving crimes and helping out other women on a regular basis. In 1945, three years into their partnership, Will and Lillian get a cracker of a case: a rich widow is murdered at her own Halloween party, and friends in her social circle are convinced it was the ghost of her late husband that killed her. Will and Lillian are sure that's not the case, but their investigation does include a surprisingly convincing medium who happened to be at the party, so who knows?

There's something of a gender-swapped Sherlock situation going on with this tale, a feeling that didn't leave me despite all the obvious differences (circuses, Ms. Pentecost's battle with MS, her queer sidekick). I enjoyed the two protagonists, as well as their fortune-telling nemesis, and the mystery was certainly a good one. If nothing else, read it for Will's distinctive storytelling style.
Was this review helpful?