Cover Image: Last Call at the Nightingale

Last Call at the Nightingale

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Member Reviews

Last Call at the Nightingale combines authentic-feeling prohibition era period detail with a heroine who’s easy to love, a unique cast of supporting characters, and a genuinely surprising mystery.

It’s 1924, we’re in New York City, and bisexual Irish immigrant Vivian Kelly sews at a dress shop for a living, sharing a tenement apartment with her younger sister, the old-fashioned Florence.  The two young women were orphaned as children, and aged out of the system and into their tenement apartment together.  But at The Nightingale - an underground dance club - Vivian can escape from her daily drudgery and experience glamour and romance in the dark, with free drinks and free dances galore. Vivian crosses boundaries of class as she lets loose and has fun.

Then one night at the club, Vivian and her waitress friend Bea stumble upon a man’s body in the alleyway at the back.  Though they vow to tell no one what they’ve seen, she and Bea find themselves swept up into the investigation surrounding the man’s murder.

Last Call at the Nightingale is a strongly-written mystery that’s a very engrossing read and a very surprising and breathlessly-told tale.  It’s perfectly plotted,  moves with all speed toward the conclusion and is hard to put down.  But if you’re only here for a love story, be forewarned: there is a romance between Vivian and a fellow who becomes involved in the case, but it’s secondary and left somewhat in the air, so don’t expect anything more exciting than a happy-for-now conclusion.

Strong research and an easy-to-root-for heroine make this one especially interesting.  Vivian is determined to have fun no matter what, and her fun leads her to a different sort of adventure.

This is a great mystery, and the ending to it is truly unpredictable.  To reveal very much more about the book would ruin the experience of it.  So go pick up Last Call at the Nightingale and let yourself be swept away.

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Kick up your heels and pass the bubbles! In LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTINGALE, Katharine Schellman takes on the Jazz Age, giving us a twisty-turny murder mystery that explores a changing world. The Nightingale is a speakeasy that draws the high and the low, all looking to escape something in their workaday lives, and Schellman evokes the atmosphere in wonderful detail: low lights, velvet curtains, the wail of trumpets and trombones, the scent of booze and sweat. Much like in her Regency-era mysteries, the characters are compelling and diverse, and though the plot is driven by a whodunit, what kept me reading was wanting to see more of Vivian and the others caught in the Nightingale's orbit.
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Set during prohibition in a .lower class speakeasy, Vivian uses dancing as a way to escape her impoverished life..  The discovery of a murdered man behind the speakeasy takes her on a dangerous hunt for clues to who the victim was and who murdered him.

Great world building and believable characters.  A complicated plot that has you guessing many times who the good guys are.
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Katharine Schellman's newest historical mystery series is a Jazz Age hit with a compelling cast of diverse characters. Vivian Kelly spends her days trying to scrape by in life with her sister, and her nights dancing away her troubles. Vivian becomes tangled up in the secrets of the intriguing employees and patrons of The Nightingale speakeasy, putting her at danger's door. Overall the characters were all well-developed, and for those who had more veiled motivations (ex. her sister), I hope to read more about them in the next book. With a steadily-paced plot and plenty of twists and turns in the mystery, this is a solid new historical mystery.
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Wow! I'm blown away by this historical mystery! Set during Prohibition, this novel is so crisp and well written that you feel like you're actually there in Vivian's shoes as she navigates a particularly difficult time in history. The mystery is appropriately twisty and the characters well drawn. I especially appreciated that Schellman including people who are not usually seen in these books (Asians, Blacks, LGBTQ+) Moreover, the history in this novel is impeccable. (Every time I thought I'd caught a goof, I looked it up and I was wrong.) Highly recommended.
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Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman features a speakeasy where the alcohol flows, the music blares, and couples pack the dance floor. It is at the Nightingale where we first meet Vivian, a young Irish woman, and her friend Bea. The two women are enjoying trips around the dance floor with several gents and sipping champagne and other alcoholic drinks provided by the bartender, Danny. What surprised me early on was that this was a very mixed crowd; Danny is Chinese. Bea, who works at the Nightingale ad lives just a block or so from Vivian and her sister Florence, is Black. The club’s patrons are of all races, genders, and gender identities. The club owner, Ms. Honor Huxley (yes, she goes by “Ms.”) is a lesbian and is not particularly shy about it. She knows everything that goes on in her establishment; if she doesn’t know, she has ways of finding out.

When Vivian and Bea stumble upon a dead man in the alley outside the Nightingale one night, “Hux” makes a deal with Vivian to learn more on the sly in order to keep the police from becoming involved. Vivian may seem naïve, and at times, she seems to have bitten off more than she can chew, but she’s also got plenty of moxie. Despite her sister Flo’s protestations, Viv steps out every night to go to the club and engages the patrons and others in her efforts to glean information about the dead man. 

The plot seemed fairly straightforward, but there are some red herrings, which had me quite confused for a while. I wasn’t reading to solve the murder, however. I became absorbed in the lives of the characters, in how they interact and relate to one another. I loved that Bea and Viv are best friends; they seem colorblind and are devoted to one another. The sisters, who were raised by nuns in an orphanage, have a close relationship, although it is different from the two friends. Flo and Viv live together in a tiny tenement residence, work as seamstresses, and pool their money for groceries. But they don’t share confidences as readily as one might expect. Honor Huxley is another fascinating character. When her club is raided and many patrons are arrested, she is in the background providing bail. She and Vivian waltz around, both literally and figuratively, as Vivian seems undecided about which way she swings. Will we see more from the Nightingale, Viv, Bea, and Honor?

I found Last Call at the Nightingale to be a fun, engaging read. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, put on some jazz, and dive in!

Thanks to NetGalley, Minotaur Books, and the author for this ARC copy in exchange for my honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

3 stars
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Fan of the roaring 20s and speakeasies?? Throw in a murder mystery and this book was written for you! I could not believe how well written Last Call At Thr Nightingale was, it truly felt like I was sipping illegal hooch at a NYC speakeasy.
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An engaging mystery set in Jazz Age Prohibition-era NYC.  Vivian works in a dress shop but wants to live it up and enjoy her youth in the Nightingale speakeasy at night.  She and her friends are a diverse melting pot of ethnicities and sexual orientations.  The mystery was interesting as well.
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Vivian sees things she shouldn't, in a place she shouldn't be.

To be honest, I think my response to this book was colored by a book set in the same era that I read recently. Author Katharine Schellman does an excellent job setting the scene. You can almost feel the sweat pouring off bodies, the crowded dance floor, and the quiet desperation of many of those at the Nightingale. Vivian, a working class Irish lass, bisexual, finds escape from her harsh reality at the club and winds up being the one to find a dead body in the alley behind the club. The dark side of the Jazz Age, with prohibition and the frequently almost forced exuberance of the era shine forth throughout the book. The characters are nicely introduced and include different races, creeds, and sexual leanings. Wealth and the role of women during the Jazz Age, not to mention the early 1900's in America, are brought out, as are the various prejudices of the times. In other words, there is a great deal going on in this book. 

Despite the dark tone of the setting, again perhaps because of my previous readings and being a history major, I liked Vivian and sympathized with her situation. Many of my ancestors probably lived similar lives, making it all the more real to me as a reader. Vivian's pursuit of the truth took courage and the murder, in a weird way, took a backseat for me as the story progressed because of the bigger picture of the times. The world was already harsh and full of secrets for a relatively innocent girl like Vivian, making her courage all the more impressive. She's trying to survive but have some fun, too, and winds up caught up in a murder investigation. She even gets arrested at one point but is bailed out by friends she's made at the Nightingale. We should all deserve such friends.

I won't detail the plot, it's easily accessible in many places, but it moved along from the first page. As noted, the author does an excellent job of setting the scene and the alternating senses of hope, despair, and fear that underlie the plot. Caught between the secrets of those who inhabited the Nightingale, the whims and lack of care from those of a higher status, where lives like hers might be considered irrelevant, Vivian emerges as a strong woman in a time when strong women weren't the norm. Thus, read this one as much for a look at a dark period of American history, the roles of women, and the differences between social levels as a mystery. If you enjoy history, you'll enjoy this book and maybe, like me, find yourself looking up "The Great Gatsby" and discovering it was written the year this book is set in, only a year after the Charleston took the world by storm.

Thank you, #NetGalley and #StMartinsPress for this thoughtful, occasionally troubling bit of time travel back into an era that looked so delightful on the surface but was full of darker undertones. Oddly enough, I enjoyed it.
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I was drawn in by this historical mystery set at a speakeasy in 1920 New York City. As a New Yorker myself, it's always fun to read about times gone by on the streets I walk every day. Vivian is a captivating young woman, who I was rooting for throughout this book. I felt for her fractured relationship with her sister, and her want to live life on her own terms. The story-telling was a bit slow at points, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I recommend this novel for those who are fans of NYC, historical fiction and the Jazz Age.
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Nothing special about this book whatsoever. This just dragged on and on. With nothing actually happening. You could predict everything that happens with all aspects and characters. The only positive: the time period  and specificity of genre is unique to most books. Also, the author threw in a black and Asian character…also unique to a story set in the ‘20’s
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Last Call at the Nightingale beckons readers into a darkly glamorous speakeasy where music, liquor, and secrets flow. Caught in a police raid at the Nightingale, Vivian discovers that the dead man wasn't the nameless bootlegger he first appeared. With too many people assuming she knows more about the crime than she does, Vivian finds herself caught between the dangers of the New York's underground and the world of the city's wealthy and careless, where money can hide any sin and the lives of the poor are considered disposable...including Vivian's own.

A fun and interesting read. I loved the way Schellman created an atmosphere that is tangible and filled with detail. It really gives you the sense that you are there. Her character development is excellent and Schellman delivers a  story with clever twists and turns and memorable personalities.. A must read!
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Very enjoyable mystery set in the mid-1920s era.  The storyline was great - it kept me guessing "whodunit" until the very end, I didn't figure it out.  The characters are really fleshed out and the descriptions are memorable.

Viv works at a dressmaker's with her sister and goes out at night to the Nightingale, a speakeasy, to visit with friends and dance the night away.  She finds a dead body in the alley and all kinds of trouble breaks out.

The book blurb said this is the first in a new series - I'd be interested to see if it follows these same characters or involves more going forward.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a temporary, digital ARC in return for my review.
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I received an ARC, of Last Call at the Nightingale, by Katharine Schellman.  The Jazz Age, was a very interesting time.  I am glad I was not around for it, but others loved it.  Vivian sees more then she should at a nightclub. This book is a good mystery.
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First in a captivating Jazz age mystery series from author Katharine Schellman, Last Call at the Nightingale beckons readers into a darkly glamorous speakeasy where music, liquor, and secrets flow. Loved the way this writer portrayed the era and all the colorful characters. The mystery kept me guessing until the end which came way too fast! I am looking forward to more in this Jazz Age series. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
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A truly excellent novel! This book was so expertly well written that I savored every single page. Characters are fun and relatable. The story line is both well plotted and well crafted with many twists and turns along the way that had me guessing until the very end. A really great read perfect for all mystery lovers, highly recommend! I can’t wait to read more from this author.
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I admire the way the author evokes the setting--1924 New York-- in the first in a new series. Prohibition is the law of the land, and the Nightingale is a crowded speakeasy. Patrons may be low wage-earners or business owners, black or white or Chinese, attracted to men or to women. All are willing to risk being arrested in a raid for the opportunity to drink forbidden liquor and dance the Charleston or the waltz to the live music. 

Vivian and her sister grew up as orphans and now support themselves as seamstresses. Florence is not a risk taker, but Vivian often spends her evenings at the Nightingale, trading dances for free drinks and treasuring the moments she is away from the harsh realities of her life. One night she discovers a dead body in the alley behind the club, and she finds herself involved in the often-dangerous activity around identifying the man and figuring out who might have wanted him dead. 

It's a lively story, and it's not easy to guess the guilty party. It will be interesting to see how the characters are developed in more depth in future installments in this Jazz Age mystery series.

My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press/Minotaur for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this book.
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Thank you to the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

3.5/5 I did enjoy this but I kind of wanted more from it.

Last Call at the Nightingale is a Jazz age mystery murder. Vivian Kelly is trying to make ends meet at her dress shop job with her sister, while at night she goes out dancing and drinking at the Nightingale. One night Vivian finds someone murdered, next thing she knows, she's being arrested in a raid. When the boss of the Nightingale, Ms. Huxley, asks Vivian to look into the murder, Vivian doesn't know if she should. But she wants answers herself, looking into the dark side of NYC puts her in deeper danger than she expects.

Vivian was an easy character to like. I totally got that she wanted to enjoy her youth, not just waste it working at the miserable dress shop. I do wish her relationship with her sister was better discussed. It mostly felt like Florence was made into a villain because she doesn't approve of Vivian's nightly activities. To an extent I get it, but Florence is entitled to her own opinion and likes. It felt like she wasn't given the page time to explore or explain this to her sister.

I loved the cast of the Nightingale. Bea and Danny were such great friends to Vivian. I loved these two so much. Then there's Ms. Huxley. I was so in love with this boss ass bitch. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Vivian and Hux, I wish we got more of it. I did enjoy her relationship with Mr. Green, but it didn't have the same intensity as Hux did.

The murder mystery was so well done. This part I have zero complaints. I loved seeing Vivian snooping around and figuring shit out. There were so many twists and turns and I enjoyed this part of it very much.

Rep: white bisexual female MC, Jewish male love interest, white lesbian female love interest, Chinese male side character, Black female side character.

CW: Illegal alcohol consumption (prohibition), blood, death, gun violence, injury/injury detail, lesbophobia/lesbomisia, queer slur, misogyny, murder, panic attacks, racism, sexism, violence.
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Before I even dive into the background of Katharine Schellman’s latest historical mystery, Last Call at the Nightingale, I just want to take a moment to rave about this stunning cover. Because I read a .pdf, I don’t have the cover artist’s details. It’s a gorgeous book, though, so fitting for this story set in New York City in 1924, the Jazz Age and Prohibition.

Vivian Kelly doesn’t remember her mother. She and her older sister Florence grew up in a Catholic orphanage after their mother died. Now, the two Irish sisters work in a respectable trade, dressmaking. Florence, the responsible older sister, accepts that she’ll probably never marry, but work long hours making beautiful dresses for well-to-do women. Vivian longs to escape, though. After her work days, she heads to an illegal nightclub, the Nightingale, where she can have a couple drinks on someone, and dance the night away.

But,, one night, Vivian steps out back with her best friend,, Bea, a Black waitress, and Vivian sees a well-dressed man’s body. Although she’s warned to “Forget you saw anything out there”, Vivian can’t let it go. When the Nightingale is raided, and Vivian ends up in jail along with the others who can’t afford bail, she’s frantic. She knows her sister doesn’t have the money to bail her out. It’s no big deal for people to make bail immediately if they have money. “But when poor girls with no family were caught dancing and drinking, they ended up in workhouses and reformatories.” Fortunately, Bea and the bartender, Danny, show up to bail her out. But, now Vivian owes a favor to Honor Huxley, the woman who owns the Nightingale.

To Honor, Vivian is repaying her bail money by gathering information. However, Vivian finds herself caught up in a world where life is cheap and dangerous men beat up people for answers. It’s bad enough that she injured her hand during the raid of the nightclub. Now, she’s always watching her back as she asks questions about the dead man. Why did someone kill him and leave his body in the alley behind the Nightingale? It’s a dangerous task, and Vivian doesn’t know who she can trust other than her friend Bea, and a few people at the Nightingale. And, she certainly doesn’t want to drag Bea into danger while she asks questions about a murder.

Schellman’s first two historical mysteries , The Body in the Garden and Silence in the Library, were set in Napoleonic-era London, and they brought out issues that seldom appear in historical mysteries, the racism, wealth, and social classes, as well as the role of women at the time. Now, as she introduces a young Irish woman as an amateur sleuth, Schellman once again points out the differences in status, dealing with class and prejudice. Outside the Nightingale, the world is harsh for the working class, for young women, widows and women trying to survive. Inside the illegal world of the nightclub, it’s a world of illegal drinks, shady dealings, where races mix and lesbians and gay men dance through the night, just as other young single men and women do. But, Last Call at the Nightingale, is not just a place for freedom. It’s a place of secrets where a young woman could get trapped.

Schellman’s mysteries are unusual. She introduces readers to a world that isn’t quite what they expected, although it’s based on historical fact. Enter that world now for Last Call at the Nightingale.
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