Cover Image: Murder Under Her Skin

Murder Under Her Skin

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Member Reviews

This was such a fun read! The background behind it was so fascinating and unique. I can not wait to read more from this author and series.
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I love these characters. I’ve never been more excited for a sequel than I was when I finished Fortune Favors the Dead. Pentecost and Parker own my heart right now.

I had no idea who the murderer was the entire time. I may have been too focused on Will’s antics, because really I love her so much, but I was truly in the dark til the reveal. Spotswood unravels the mystery in such an alluring way, I couldn’t put this down once I started it. 

My favorite part of this series is the writing. The dialogue of the characters and the descriptions of the places truly made me feel like I was in the time period of the book. That’s the mark of an amazing historical fiction, and these book definitely deserve that title. 

If you enjoy queer books, mystery novels, historical fiction, or just plain old fun then you need to read this series.
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This 2nd book in the series that follows 2 female P.I.s is very good! (The 1st was great too!) The series takes place in the 1940's & uses a lot of the dime store type novel lingo of those times, & it's really fun to read & follow the 2 lead characters. I'd guess that one could start with this book & it'd read fine, but I had read the 1st & thought that I benefited from that. I appreciated that the challenges of dealing with MS is portrayed very realistically, & the respect given to a lot of issues faced/dealt with by this duo. This mystery series also offers some humor, a little comment on some social issues, & a little history of that was a blast to read! I really look forward to the 3rd installment!
I received a complimentary e-ARC of the book from publisher Doubleday via NetGalley, in return for reading it & posting an honest review.
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Before I review, please keep in mind that I didn't know this was a sequel so I was a bit confused at some parts.

Where do I even start, I loved this book so much that I had to immediately reread it. It's a satisfying mystery book with two strong female detectives. Usually, I have a difficult time enjoying mystery books but I was able to enjoy Murder Under Her Skin. I would definitely recommend this to anything who does enjoy mystery books. 

**Don't be discouraged by my rating, it usually depends on the mood that I was in before reading. 

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Headline, Wildfire via NetGalley at my own request. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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“Murder Under Her Skin” is the highly anticipated sequel to Stephen Spotswood’s “Fortune Favors the Dead” in his Pentecost and Parker series.

This picks up just a few months after the events of “Fortune” in 1946. Willowjean (Will) Parker gets the news that her old circus friend Ruby Donner, The Amazing Tattooed Woman, has been murdered. To make matters worse, her former mentor, Valentin Kalishenko has been arrested for the murder. Will knows that Kalishenko would never kill someone in the circus family and it’ll be up to her and her boss, Lillian Pentecost, to figure out the real murderer. Adding to the problem is that the murder happens in Ruby’s hometown so anyone in town is a possible suspect as well as the people with the circus.  

The mystery was a bit more compact here than in “Fortune” in that there’s really only the one mystery that’s needing to be solved this time. However, there are many different threads and elements that all come together to solve the case and I’ll admit that I was not clued in until Lillian Pentecost spit it out. Once the murderer is revealed I was able to see how there were clues that lead to the murderer(s) but Spotswood is so good at having us look right when we should be looking left instead. 

While I did enjoy “Murder Under Her Skin” I felt that it lost a little of the charm that was in “Fortune” especially when it came to Will. This has a darker overtone and doesn’t have as much humor that I enjoyed before. I’m not sure if it was on purpose since this case is much more personal to Will but it definitely had a different feel than the first book. Also, Pentecost wasn’t around as much this time and I really missed her presence. 

Although I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much, it is still an interesting and fun mystery to read. Will is still a fabulous character and I loved her thoughts and ideas about the world around her. I recommend this, especially if you read “Fortune” and I look forward to more of Pentecost and Parker in the future. 

I received an ARC from Doubleday Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker are partners. Pentecost is a private investigator. The book begins with Pentecost testifying in an arson trial where she is able to confront the arsonist and show the jury he is a firebug. Parker gets an urgent phone call from her old friend from her days in the Hart and Halloway Circus. Someone has knifed her friend, Ruby Donner, and the Russian knife-thrower has been arrested. The circus has set up camp in Donner, Virgina, where Ruby was born and raised, so the list of suspects includes not just circus folk, but the entire town as well. Pentecost and Parker believe the knife-thrower is innocent, but the sheriff requires more than just women's intuition. A period piece, set in 1946, this was an original plot. It was an entertaining read, but there were some anachronisms that were annoying.
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Another compelling and satisfying mystery featuring the Pentecost and Parker duo. This time readers get a peek into Will's past as a murder calls her back to her former circus home. Will really steals the spotlight this time, doing most of the investigating and running the gamut of emotions. As always, the secondary characters are fleshed out and interesting (if all slightly suspicious), and Spotswood has written a mystery that manages to be thoughtful and also well-paced. Highly recommend this series to anyone who likes a nice solid mystery, not too much of a thriller and not too cozy.
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Someone’s put a blade in the back of the Amazing Tattooed Woman, and Willowjean “Will” Parker’s former knife-throwing mentor has been stitched up for the crime. To uncover the truth, Will and her boss, world-famous detective Lillian Pentecost, travel south to the circus where they find a snakepit of old grudges, small-town crime, and secrets worth killing for.New York, 1946: The last time Will Parker let a case get personal, she walked away with a broken face, a bruised ego, and the solemn promise never again to let her heart get in the way of her job. But she called Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus and Sideshow home for five years, and Ruby Donner, the circus’s tattooed ingenue, was her friend. To make matters worse the prime suspect is Valentin Kalishenko, the man who taught Will everything she knows about putting a knife where it needs to go. This is the second in a wonderful new series. The characters are fresh, colorful and really interesting. Learning about 1946 NY was fascinating and the whodunit part kept me enthralled until the end. I really hope this ia long, long series. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
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The first book in this series, Fortune Favors the Dead, opened the partnership between private investigator Lillian Pentecost and former ‘cirky girl’ Willowjean Parker with Parker throwing a knife into the back of the man attempting to assault Pentecost.

The story in Murder Under Her Skin takes Will Parker, along with Lillian Pentecost, back to the place where Will learned how to throw that knife with intent, aim and a whole lot of nerve.

Will’s former mentor, the knife thrower Valentin Kalishenko, has been accused of murdering one of Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus and Sideshow’s sideshow attractions. Ruby Donner, the circus’ “Amazing Tattooed Woman”, is dead. With one of Kalishenko’s knives in her back.

The evidence is all circumstantial, but the local townspeople would much rather that someone in the circus killed one of their own rather than one of the townspeople being accused. The circus performers, one and all, are just as certain that whatever happened, Kalishenko didn’t do it.

The man left his knives everywhere. Anyone could have picked one up to strike the fatal blow. But Kalishenko has no alibi. He doesn’t even remember where he spent the night – only that he spent it in an alcoholic blackout.

A not uncommon event – but an exceedingly inconvenient one. At least for Kalishenko.

The circus’ owner asks for Lillian Pentecost’s help in figuring out who really done it. A help that Pentecost feels duty-bound to provide after the events in the previous book. Will wants to help her former mentor, and needs to help get her friends, her former found family, out of the jam they are in. And just wants justice for Ruby.

Along the way, Will discovers that her home in the circus was the kind of home that you can’t go back to again. She can and does help, even though the discovery that she’s no longer a member of the family breaks her heart.

Escape Rating A+: The Pentecost and Parker series, or at least this particular entry in it, is one of the most satisfying but also most unexpected book babies ever. If Rex Stout’s classic Fer-de-Lance (the first Nero Wolfe book) had a book baby with Phryne Fisher, particularly Blood and Circuses, the resulting book would be Murder Under Her Skin.

The comparison with Fer-de-Lance struck me in the first book because the setup of the partnership is so similar. Will becomes the legwoman and principal “active” investigator for Lillian Pentecost in much the same way that Archie Goodwin does for Nero Wolfe. The difference is that one could claim that Wolfe’s desire not to stir from his New York brownstone feels voluntary, while Lillian Pentecost’s continuing battle against the onset of multiple sclerosis is a cup she would gladly pass if only she could.

Wolfe won’t go out and Pentecost shouldn’t go out but the result is the same. Being a private detective requires that someone go out and tail suspects, occasionally fight with evildoers, and have clandestine meetings whose location can’t be dictated or controlled. Will Parker takes care of all those things for Lillian Pentecost and whatever else her boss needs to can’t quite manage for herself no matter how much she wishes she could.

But this case takes Pentecost out of her familiar Boston home and haunts while pulling Parker back to hers. It’s not just that the circus is currently stopped in the tiny town of Stoppard, Virginia, but that the circus was Parker’s home and refuge for years. She knows these people and they know her, both for good and for bad.

The case has more facets than it first appears – which is what made it so marvelously convoluted to follow.

Ruby was murdered, Kalishenko was stitched up. It’s up to Pentecost and Parker to prove it. Then the case gets bigger and wider as it’s revealed that the failing circus was in Stoppard because it’s the place where Ruby grew up. Meaning that she knew everyone in town and everyone knew her. And that she might have left both friendships and grudges behind her.

Even that isn’t complicated enough, as the more Will digs into Ruby’s past and the circus they both once called home, the more threads and tendrils reach out to faraway places and very dangerous people.

In the end the case is considerably larger than anyone ever expected. And that’s what made the unravelling of it so much hard-boiled noir-ish fun to follow.

Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker have turned out to be a fascinating and delightful pair of hard-boiled investigators. Fortune Favors the Dead was utterly marvelous and Murder Under Her Skin continues that streak. I hope they have plenty more mysteries to solve in the future!
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Fortune Favors the Dead was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and Stephen Spotswood’s sequel proved to be an excellent follow-up. 

Lillian Pentecost and Will Parker are back on the case, this time working to solve the murder of a member of Will’s former circus troupe. 

Though the New York City setting of the first book was preferable for me to the rural town featured this time, Will’s relationship to the victim, suspect(s), and circus folk in general gives the reader plenty to enjoy.

The mystery itself is an excellent one, and the humor and heart are just as strong as they were in the first book in the series. And of course, Will and Lillian are as endearing and enthralling as ever. 

Can’t wait for the next installment.
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I have to hand it to Stephen Spotswood. I did not figure out the ending! I think I was too caught up in this atmospheric story to catch all the clues. Murder Under Her Skin is the second book in the Pentecost and Parker historical noir series. Last year, I read and loved the first book in this series, Fortune Favors the Dead, and this second one is even better. This time, it's 1946, and Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean "Will" Parker find themselves in Virginia investigating the murder of Ruby, The Amazing Tattooed Woman, from the circus Will used to be part of, and Will's former mentor, Valentin, has been arrested for the crime. So it's personal for Will, and she must go back, but in a very different role, among the circus folk who were once her family. Spotswood immerses us in the curious and fascinating world of traveling circuses and populates it with colorful characters.
Lillian and Will are a brilliant partnership of two very well fleshed-out and solid female protagonists. Their dialogue is highly entertaining and intelligent. They are professional detectives during an era when it was unusual for women to be so. Lillian, coping with MS, is an enigmatic genius, and Will is street-wise with a wry sense of humor and a unique skill set from her time with the circus. Together, they are formidable and a lot of fun, as is the evolution of their relationship. I so enjoy the humor and style of these books, with their classic detective/crime fiction vibe and Will's wit. Well plotted and well written. Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for the chance to read this ARC. This book is out now, and while you don't need to read the first one to follow this story, I highly recommend both!
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Nero Wolfe twist - women focused, excellent character voice
2nd in series, which I ate up, after listening to the first, after reading recommendations from Librarians Top Picks. Anyone who's a huge fan of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin and is game for a new twist, start listening to this series immediately. I wish I thought of this combo myself, but would never get the voice right. Lillian Pentecost is the great genius, but her reluctance to move around is due to MS, and her leg man is a woman, Willowjean "Will" Parker, with all the sass and street smarts of Archie. Do not miss this series! I'm recommending it left and right. Humor but also examination and growth of the narrator (Will) as the series moves along, and it's only the 2nd one. WELL DONE. I checked out audiobook versions afterward and they're fabulous as well.
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This second installment to this series is a welcome addition. As in the first book, Willowjean "Will" Parker and Lillian Pentecost take center stage. Will is a bi-sexual, ex-circus performer, who was been "taken on" by Lilian, a formidable sleuth in 1940s New York. This time they find themselves in Stoppard, Virginia investigating a murder that happened in Will's old circus family. These mysteries are more along the lines of hard-boiled fiction, rather than cozies. Both Will and Lillian are strong female protagonists, and the mystery has enough twists and turns to keep readers on their toes.
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Willowjean “Will” Parker and her boss, world-famous detective Lillian Pentecost, are back in Stephen Spotswood’s second book in the Pentecost and Parker Mystery series.  This time, the duo is investigating a murder of a member of Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus.  It’s going to be personal for Will, since the circus was her home for five years. The victim is her friend, the Amazing Tattooed Woman, and Will’s mentor, a man skilled in knife-throwing, has been accused of the crime.  Will and Lillian have their work cut out for them, as they travel to Virginia to investigate.  What they find is a plethora of old grudges, lies, and secrets.

Murder Under Her Skin is an entertaining book that is fast-paced and filled with a myriad of interesting and unique characters.  Will and Lillian’s relationship is the heart of the story and their concern and respect for each other makes the book even better.  The mystery is well-conceived and well-plotted, and the dialogue is witty. I would call it an intelligent mystery and, for me, that means it’s one of the best.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.
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I have to admit: it took me a little while to get into this book. It started slow. I actually thought I was going to be put completely off by it for that very reason, initially; but then it started to pick up, and once it did, it just kept going and I just couldn’t stop turning pages. 

Will Parker and Lillian Pentecost are two of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across in my reading this year. I missed Spotswood’s first book in this series, but I’m going to be sure and go back to read it, because I feel the compulsion to fill myself in from the beginning. 

While it’s unlikely that people in the same positions as Pentecost and Parker would have existed in the real America of the 1940s as successful and sought-after private detectives of the female persuasions, I was happy as a clam to see the diversity in this book. From Pentecost’s multiple sclerosis to Parker’s bisexuality and outwards to the supporting cast, it was nice to see a mystery written by a male author where diversity was not something seen as a token effort but something to be strived for. 

I also have to admit that Spotswood has written some of the most engaging, witty, and intelligent dialogue I’ve read this year. I absolutely love when an author doesn’t dumb down their language for the masses or just assumes their readers would be too stupid to understand big words. 

So thank you, Stephen Spotswood, for using the word “adenoidal” in a sentence properly. If only more authors used their thesauruses more often!
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Murder Under Her Skin offers a satisfying mystery. It also boasts two strong, female detectives: one older woman, Ms. Pentecost, balancing work and MS; and a younger woman, Willowjean "Will" Parker, who left home early and spent several years with a circus before joining Pentecost's detective agency.

On this case, they're pulled back to the circus that used to be Parker's home. Ruby, the Amazing Tattooed Lady, has been killed via a knife in the back, and local police are convinced it's the work of the circus' knife-thrower Valentin Kalishenko. Kalishenko was Will's mentor when she first joined the circus. Will was deeply infatuated with Ruby during her time there. So, when Will and Pentecost are asked to investigate with a goal of clearing Valentin, they're on the job immediately.

As I said, the mystery at the heart of this novel is satisfying—the novel also has a lot going on in addition to the mystery. There are issues of gender, sexuality, ableism, religion, and local politics. Stephen Spotswood gives readers a lot to think of beyond "who dunnit?"

This is a novel I can strongly recommend for anyone who enjoys mysteries and for anyone who enjoys novels with interesting casts of characters. The pace is brisk, there are enough red herrings to keep readers guessing, and the ending is surprising and moving.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
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This second book in Stephen Spotswood's Pentecost & Parker historical mystery series, Murder Under Her Skin, is even better than the first (Fortune Favors the Dead). World-famous detective Lillian Pentecost and her protégée Willowjean "Will" Parker are a rare combination in crime fiction. Pentecost has a mind like the proverbial steel trap, a glass eye, and multiple sclerosis. Teenage Will Parker ran away from an abusive situation at home and finally spent five years in a circus before joining Pentecost. It's not often that readers come across two hardboiled female gumshoes, but Pentecost and Parker excel in their roles. 
Taking Will back to Hart & Halloway's Traveling Circus lets readers learn more of her backstory, and the small circus setting in 1946 rural Virginia is so well done that I felt as though I were right in the thick of things. Will finds it hard to believe that the people she considers family are lying to her, and it makes her uncomfortable knowing that Pentecost may learn things about her past that Will doesn't necessarily want her to know. 
Murder Under Her Skin is told in Will's irreverent voice, and I love it. She has an excellent turn of phrase, whether it be in describing the sounds a group of tarantulas make when it's on the move, or in noticing that no one sits in a dead man's chair when she visits someone's home. One of my favorites? When Will describes an ill-tempered guard dog of a secretary: "She kept a close eye on us from the gunner's turret of her desk." The mental picture that immediately sprang to my mind was perfection.

Another piece of perfection was the mystery itself. Spotswood has crafted a mystery that kept me completely in the dark from beginning to end, and once everything was revealed, I could see where he'd planted his clues all along the way. I read a boatload of crime fiction, so I love it when an author can do this to me.

Stephen Spotswood's Pentecost & Parker series has become one of my favorites in just two books. I can't wait to see what these two get up to in their next investigation.
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Lillian Pentecost is a private investigator in 1946 New York City. Will Parker is her female assistant. Will’s former job was as a circus knife thrower’s assistant. When the knife thrower is arrested for the stabbing death of the tattooed lady, Lillian and Will travel to rural Virginia to investigate inside the circus in Murder Under Her Skin.

Who doesn’t love the idea of peeking into the lives of circus folk? Most, if not all, have disturbing backstories that contain their reasons for joining the socially ostracized group. Will, with her own secrets to hide, has friendships with some of the suspects. Will that be helpful or blind her to the truth?

The atmospheric setting is the best part of Murder Under Her Skin. The mystery at the book’s heart has clear clues but many red herrings too making it a true challenge to solve. Most of the main characters were genuine and fully fleshed out. However, other characters were more like rural 1940s movie stereotypes, so I took off one star. 4 stars!

Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Will Parker and Ms. Pentecost are a formidable crime-solving duo. When an old friend calls in a favor and asks them to investigate the death of a Ruby, a tattooed lady from the circus, Will leaps at the chance. That circus had once been her home, and Ruby, her friend. But upon arriving in a small town where the circus is currently playing, Parker and Pentecost become entangled in long-simmering jealousies, a narcotics ring, and a myriad of suspects.
A delightful read!
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4 stars!

Willowjean “Will” Parker and Lillian Pentecost are back to solve another mystery, but this time it’s personal for Will. After running away from home, Will found a new one with Hart and Halloway’s Traveling Circus and Sideshow. It was there where Valentin Kalishenko taught Will everything she needed to know about knives. Now a performer of the circus, Ruby Donner, has been found dead with a knife in her back and all signs point to Kalishenko. Parker and Pentecost head down to Stoppard, Virginia to figure out what really happened.

I read Fortune Favors the Dead earlier this year and absolutely loved it. I was anxiously awaiting this sequel and boy did it not disappoint! I loved the new cast of characters that surrounded this mystery and the setting of the story was so captivating. I was worried that I would be able to figure out the ending but I was left guessing the entire time! If you’re a mystery fan then you have to give this one a read!!

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for this eARC in exchange for my honest review!
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