Cover Image: Murder in the Park

Murder in the Park

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Member Reviews

There is a reason that "Cozy Crime" got its name. It is the comforting fact that when you read it that no matter how much drama and chaos has ensued for the majority of the novel that the ending will always be satisfactory and you can rest peacefully that the bad guy has been vanquished and the good guys have triumphed. It was because of these tropes that I enjoyed Murder in the Park. I liked knowing where I stand. 

Whilst Murder in the Park can be seen as light crime fiction, author Jeanne M. Dams injects it with social issues of the day - recovery from war, loss, grief, social class, racism, gang culture - all are dealt with but without losing the calmness of the genre. Not an easy feat to achieve.
Murder in the park is not a story that will have a massive impact on your life but it is such an easy read and an enjoyable historical crime novel.

Murder in the Park by Jeanne M. Dams is available now. 

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This is the first installment in a new mystery series.  The strength of the story was in the description of the social milieu in the 1920’s Oak Park, Illinois, rife with racism and mobsters.  Elizabeth was widowed at the end of WWI, and has tried to cut herself off from emotion and feelings.  Fred is a local lawyer who befriended Elizabeth, but has also fallen for her.  When Elizabeth’s friend, Mr. Anthony is found murdered, Elizabeth embarks in solving the mystery while she uncovers the hatred and racism that existed during that time, including the division between the Italian Catholics and the WASPs.  I look forward to another in the series, off to a great start.  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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It’s always something of a challenge to write a heroine who tends to be rather stoic – she can so easily come across as uncaring. But Dams is an experienced author with the long-running Dorothy Martin series under her belt and that sure-footedness shows in her characterisation of Elizabeth and the dynamic within her family.

I really liked how the shock of the murder within the close-knit community shakes Elizabeth up and causes her to rethink her own attitude towards those around her, as well as hardening her determination to not let a flagrant injustice lie. Dams shows just what a gutsy decision that proves to be, as some unsavoury, dangerous people crawl out of the woodwork to try and intimidate her into piping down and accepting the status quo. It had even more heft as Dam’s painstaking research has uncovered that those elements could easily have been living within Oak Park Village at the time.

The setting is very well established. While the book focuses on Elizabeth’s daily routine as a young, wealthy white woman, Dams is unflinching in also featuring the gulf between the haves and have-nots of the time, which I really liked. Often historical whodunits tend to skate over the societal faultlines of the time and kudos to Dams for not taking that comfortable route. As for the whodunit, I won’t pretend that the solution provides a huge surprise – but that isn’t what powers the story. It’s far more about what unrest this murder stirs up, both societally and personally for Elizabeth, which is depicted really successfully making this a memorable and enjoyable story. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries with a splash of gentle romance and a very well-researched setting. While I obtained an arc of Murder in the Park from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
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A new mystery series, set in 1920's Chicago, from a very practised storyteller. Great potential here to develop the heroine and her friends in future instalments, and this first one is worth a read to soak up the period background and become acquainted with the diverse cast of characters. I look forward to the next one.
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This the excellent start of a new historical mystery series. It's compelling, gripping, and well written.
Elizabeth is a fascinating character and I loved her character arc and how she started to live again accepting and managing her grief.
The historical background is detailed and well researched, the mystery solid and full of twists.
I loved the storytelling and can't wait to read the next book
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Having never read any books by this author, I was drawn to it by both its appealing cover and its setting in Oak Park. (Full disclosure, I reside in this suburb of Chicago.) Therefore, I eagerly downloaded the ARC when I was approved, and dove into the book at the first chance. As promised, it is a cozy mystery, and the author provides the reader with a real sense of time and place. And the premise of the story, billed as the first in a new series, is benign enough: a wealthy young war widow sets her mind on solving the murder of a local shopkeeper. 

Some of my issues with the book are minor, such as the heroine referring to an important (and real) wealthy Oak Park resident as having died 10 years before the year that the book takes place. A quick internet search determined that the historical figure died in 1910, which would have been 15 years prior to the book's setting of June 1925. A mistake such as this, while trivial and not important to the overall story, is easily checked and corrected by careful editing. However, my most significant difficulty with this book is in the author’s unfettered use of the offensive term for black people that begins with the letter N. Disturbing as it was to encounter it in any form, it was especially egregious because it was spelled out completely, with no attempt to temper its racist impact with more ‘acceptable’ versions, such as “n-word” or “n****r”. Although one could argue that the author was having the uncouth vulgarian in the book spew the word repeatedly in an attempt to be historically accurate, I would contend that there are other unsavory terms for various people that the author chose not to employ. Indeed, the protagonist, a young white woman, who was central to the incident that prompted the racial animus, was not called the c-word, though I dare say the foul-mouthed lowlife who used the n-word probably would have called her that term. 

As a reference librarian, I am able to research and find many articles discussing the use of the n-word, many of which would not support my objection to the use of the term. Yet I am also a librarian who reviews books, and as such I can call upon the book’s editor to help the author get their point across about racial animus across, without resorting to the use of the most emotionally-charged racial slur in our society. Finally, as a human being, I will not be recommending this book to anyone as it stands. Which is a shame, because it otherwise was a gentle read.
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This book takes place in the 1920's in Oak Park, Illinois outside of Chicago.  Elizabeth Fairchild lives with her wealthy parents, Mildred and Kenneth Walker.  She was married for a very short time and then her husband was killed at the end of WWI and she lost her baby shortly thereafter.  Although her parents would like her to marry again, she is reticent to take on a new relationship.  She has made friend's with the antique dealer, Mr. Antonelli, nearby.   When she finds he has been stabbed, she tries to help the family as well as to find the killer.  The police almost immediately arrest Mr. Briggs, a friend of Mr. Antonelli and Elizabeth's father.   Elizabeth's trying to help Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Briggs and their families seem to have put Elizabeth in danger.  There are two groups in Oak Park to be afraid of - one is the Ku Klux Klan, known as the Walosa's, who are wealthy folks who are afraid of anyone not like themselves, such as blacks, Italians, gangsters and Catholics, and the other is the gangsters.     

Elizabeth has another friend in lawyer, Fred Wilkins.  She doesn't want to get too close to him because of the death of her husband, but they go to operas together.  Her mother doesn't think he's good enough for her.  However, Fred helps her in her efforts to find Mr. Antonello's murderer.  
When Elizabeth earns the attention of the gang and might be in danger from her sleuthing, Fred's Aunt Lucy invites her to stay with them.  Elizabeth quickly bonds with Aunt Lucy and begins to learn to cook from her.  It's the black maid Susannah who finally provides a crucial clue she picked up at the Baptist church, which leads the way to the solving of the murder.   

I thank Netgalley and Severn House who provided me with an ARC to read in order for me to write an honest review.
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An engaging heroine and an interesting setting, as well as a suitably twisty mystery make this a good read.  It's 1925 and Elizabeth, a widow, is living with her parent in Oak Park Illinois, doing good works and she's a bit bored. Then Mr. Anthony, who owns a local antique store is murdered.  When the fact that he was really Mr. Antonelli, an immigrant from Italy, comes out, the police arrest another Italian man and close the case.  But Elizabeth doesn't.  She engages her family, the family staff, and her friends to get the truth and it turns out there's a very dark side to Oak Park,.  No spoilers from me.  I liked that Dams incorporated period social issues into the plot, which zips along.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.  For fans of historical cozies.
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My thanks to Jeanne M Dams, Severn Publishing and Net Galley for the ARC of MURDER IN THE PARK.
A well-written story with a delightful protagonist that kept me reading. Set in 1925, an era I love to read about, Elizabeth Fairchild has been widowed in the war and continues to grieve for her lost husband. She has shut herself away from others, but because of her kind and generous nature, gives to charity and helps those less fortunate. When Mr Anthonelly, the local antique dealer, is murdered she is bereft. He was one of the people in the town she could call a friend, so she sets out to discover who took his life. Set against a backdrop of racial prejudice, restrictive societal mores, and the rise of The Mob and the KKK, this story shows how kindness and caring can win.
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Step back into the 1920s in Oak Park, Illinois with its social systems firmly in place, combined with prejudice of the day and the rise of the Chicago Mob. This is the rich background for the murder of an antique shop owner, Mr. Anthony. Elizabeth, a customer, friend and the protagonist of this story learns after his death that Mr. Anthony, as she knew him, was actually Mr. Antonelli, an Italian. He had kept his Italian heritage a secret because of the prejudice against Italians, mostly fomented by groups belonging to organizations like the KKK.
Elizabeth is troubled by Mr. Antonelli’s murder, and even more so when the police arrest another Italian, Mr. Briggs. It becomes apparent that this solution is one arrived at in haste because there are so many negative feelings toward the Italian community and it presents an easy solution.. It’s convenient to have the murder officially seen as belonging solely to an ethnic community and therefore nothing to do with the upstanding members of the wealthy, white community that resides in Oak Park.
Elizabeth takes it upon herself to try and solve the murder. She is convinced Mr. Briggs isn’t the murderer and she refuses to judge someone by their ethnicity. This pits her against both the members of the KKK, whose hatred of “others” is rampant and the mob, who believes they are being targeted as the perpetrators by Elizabeth in her quest to free her friend. Both groups set about to cause Elizabeth problems, if not actual physical harm, which puts everyone in her family and close social group at risk.
The book is as much about prejudice, the KKK, and a group known as the Walosas, who spread lies and malicious rumors about anyone who has a different ethnic background than theirs as it is about who murdered a local shopkeeper. Elizabeth manages through a whisper campaign to set one group against the other which helps her lessen the danger to herself as she sets out to discover the guilty party.
As Elizabeth goes about her investigation, she is forced to see herself as the emotionally walled off person she is, a result of the death in the war of her husband of one week and the ultimate loss of their baby. Helping her in this endeavor is Fred, a local attorney who has feelings for her, his Aunt Lucy who is a warm, loving woman on her own; very different from Elizabeth’s rather demanding and socially conscious mother. She also becomes closer with the servants in her house, and realizes she has not been as interested in them and their lives as she might have been. Elizabeth is also gifted with a warm, loving father who opens her eye to the reality that while Elizabeth’s mother is demanding in many ways, Elizabeth has rarely bothered to see their relationship from all sides.
In addition to the family dynamics that run throughout, the unvarnished vision of prejudice and it’s negative effects winds through the book, moving  at a pace equal to Elizabeth’s search for the murderer. The book also highlights the lifestyle of many people in the 1920s with the social mores of the age as well as the very strict social order of men vs, women, rich vs. poor, etc. For this reason, the book may represent more than a simple mystery story, but one which also has a message regarding hatred, distrust, and envy and, in the author’s notes, a challenge to modern day society.
I appreciate Severn House Publishing for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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Elizabeth Fairchild is a young widow having lost both her husband and unborn child during the First World War.  She lives in Oak Park, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago with her parents in their upper middle class home.  She does all the things society expects of her – charities, social events, church.  She also has to deal with a mother who thinks appearances to the ladies in her community are more important than anything.  Elizabeth doesn’t as much and that brings up a lot of tension between her and her mother with her father having to play the peacemaker between them.

Elizabeth is upset when Mr. Anthony, a local antiques dealer, is murdered outside his shop the same day that Elizabeth visited him to purchase a birthday gift for her father.  She was very fond of Mr. Anthony, but realized she didn’t know him at all when she finds out that his real name was Mr. Antonelli – a man who immigrated to the U.S. from Italy many years before.  He had been forced to hide his true identity because people in Oak Park wouldn’t have had anything to do with him had they known he was Italian.

Elizabeth decides that she must find out the truth about his murder when another Italian is arrested for the murder and the police won’t look any further.  She enlists the aid of her father, the servants who work in her household, the young man she has been seeing, and other friends to find out what happened to Mr. Antonelli.

I received this book from NetGalley as an advanced reading copy and I want to thank them.  This is the beginning of a new series by an author who has had two other series that I know of.  For me, the Dorothy Martin series is the one I know best.  I have enjoyed those and was glad to be able to read the first in this new one.

This book brings up discrimination, hatred, bigotry, race and so many other issues that we seem to be dealing with today.   Elizabeth proves to be brave and determined as she goes up against the mob, the KKK, the bigotry of a local women’s club.  I was sorry when this book ended.  I really wanted to continue Elizabeth's journey and will look forward to the next installment.  I am so willing to recommend it to our library patrons, but I expect those that like her other series will probably find this on their own.
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Close To Home…
The first in the Oak Park Village Mystery series from the talented pen of Jeanne M. Dams, who rarely disappoints. The reader is introduced to Elizabeth Fairchild, a daring new female amateur sleuth from a 1920’s Illinois. When a murder close to home means that she cannot help but investigate Elizabeth may find herself out of her depth. With much atmosphere, illuminating historical detail and a carefully crafted cast this is an intriguing and compelling read comprising many strands, often dark, menacing and disturbing.
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A good historical read with nice insights into Oak Park in the immediate post World War 1 era. The characters are good but really the most interesting one is the aunt of the romantic interest. It is what I would think of as a good cozy read.
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Another start in a gripping new mystery series. I really enjoyed this one. Really gripping. Struggled to put it down in fact, recommend
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I've read, and enjoyed, all 24 books in this author's Dorothy Martin cozy series and so I was really looking forward to reading this first book in her new Oak Park Village mystery series. I was not disappointed, that's for sure. It was terrific.

This book is different than the usual cozy. The upper class woman sleuth, Elizabeth Walker Fairchild, lives with her parents after her husband, a soldier, died at the end of World War 1. When  Elizabeth's friend is murdered, she feels the need to try to solve the case, despite the limits imposed on her due to her social status and from her loved ones.

I loved the main characters and also how the author brought the 1920's village of Oak Park, IL to life.

Outstanding mystery, one I'd highly recommend to cozy mystery fans. Here's hoping for many more in this series.
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I received this ARC via Netgalley and Severn House, in return for an honest review.  As the first book in a new series, we’re introduced to the 1920s upscale world in Oak Park, Illinois.  Author of the beloved Dorothy Martin mysteries, Jeanne M. Dams takes us on an interesting and thought-provoking mystery with factual situations and settings, coupled with our fictitious heroine and her family. 
Elizabeth Walker Fairchild lost both her WWI soldier husband and then her unborn child in a matter of months.  It’s been seven years and she’s still living with her parents, doing all the upper social strata things that Oak Park ladies do, while just getting through each day with her socially conscious mother.  An encounter with Mr. Anthony, a friendly merchant, to buy a gift for her father’s birthday is horrifying when she is told that he was found murdered the night after she visited his shop.  Elizabeth decides to visit his family and, little by little, rediscover interests outside her own situation.  Elizabeth is drawn into solving Mr. Anthony’s murder and, as an unexpected result, improving her own life.
Her growth through the book is emotionally well-done and difficult.  Symptomatic of the times, she realizes that the African Americans who’ve worked for her parents for decades have lives and tragedies and deal with daily racism.  The real KKK Walosas Womens Club is featured in this book, as part of the story line that addresses bigotry against Italians and any non-WASPs.  Organized crime is also a part of the story so Ms. Dams weaves lots of threads to tell this story.
It’s an interesting and well-written story as you’d expect from Ms. Dams.  Elizabeth is a sympathetically written protagonist who grows exponentially over the course of the book.  I look forward to the next in this series.
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A captivating murder mystery set in Chicago's wealthy Oak Park Village during the Roaring Twenties and where racial discriminations and ethnic
tensions threaten to shatter its urban peacefulness following the murder of a beloved local antique dealer.
A compelling whodunit who introduces us to a highly spirited young war widow named Elizabeth Fairchild as she single-mindedly and courageously tries to untangle the various threads behind that violent and callous crime. 

A stunning historical portrait of the great Windy City during the eventful and rather tumultuous years of the Prohibition Era when unscrupulous Italian mobsters, despicable KKK bigots and dubious law enforcement shenanigans constantly left Chicago very vulnerable to some potentially dangerous civil unrest.

Blessed with a vast cast of perfectly drawn characters, sparkling dialogues and lots of delicious historical details, it shouldn't be too difficult for this delightful novel to acquire the readership it so rightly deserves

Many thanks to Netgalley and Canongate/Severn House for this terrific ARC
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Jeanne M. Dams, author of the Dorothy Martin mysteries, kicks off the historical Oak Park Village mystery series with Murder in the Park. While the writing seems slow-paced and old-fashioned, there are little-known facts that history fans might find surprising.

Elizabeth Walker Fairchild appears to be an ice maiden. She was only married to her husband for six months before he died in battle in World War I. Then, she lost her baby. Now, seven years later, she’s still living with her parents, spending time on charities and women’s meetings. She’s closed herself off to most people, but she does enjoy talking with Mr. Anthony at his antiques shop. In fact, when her mother was fretting over her annual fundraising party, Elizabeth escaped to Anthony’s Emporium, hoping to buy a watch for her father.

Since she just saw him, she’s shocked the next morning when her father tells her Mr. Anthony was found stabbed to death outside his shop. But, Elizabeth’s self-control starts to melt a little when she learns Mr. Anthony was Enrico Antonelli, and a music teacher who teaches with her father has been arrested. The reason? He’s Italian, too, and several women claim they saw the teacher in the shop that night.

Elizabeth is outraged at the prejudice against Italians in Oak Park. In fact, it seems to be a group of women, the deeply conservative and mostly Protestant Walosas Club who are leading the attack. Those women are the active chapter of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan. In Oak Park, they’re protesting against the influx of Catholic Italians. If they can push the arrest of one for the murder of another, they’re pursuing their agenda.

Elizabeth is young, only twenty-six, but she finds the courage to push back. She realizes she’s cut off all her friends in her period of extreme mourning, but she recruits Ernest Hemingway’s influential mother, a lawyer who admires her, and a childhood friend. Despite danger, and threats from some of the local women, Elizabeth won’t back down in her attempt to find justice for Mr. Anthony.

While Elizabeth comes across as wealthy and ignorant at the state of the world, she realizes that in the course of the story. She realizes she knows nothing of the servants in her family household. She was raised to be a lady, and know nothing about a kitchen or how to iron her own clothes. And, some of the politics in the community comes as a surprise to her. Her father and her lawyer friend both remind her that she’s naive at times, and endangers herself. And, she does come across as naive when she confronts members of the Mob who are following her. Despite her liberal views, Elizabeth is conservative, and reminds people several times that it’s illegal to have liquor in Oak Park.

If you’re looking for faster-paced mysteries set in this same time period and the same geographical region, try Mary Miley’s Mystic’s Apprentice series set in Chicago. But, Oak Park has some surprises for readers. The Walosas Club is just one of them.
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A very well written mystery novel that got me hooked by the end of the first chapter. I was very impressed with the author’s ability to present readers with a great storyline and cast of characters. Lots of attention to detail and historical events were both interesting and fun to read. All in all a great solid read that I highly recommend!
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