In its mid-century heyday, detective fiction was a man's game. But the gumshoes are an infirm older woman and a brassy young lesbian in Stephen Spotswood's incessantly delightful Pentecost and Parker series (Fortune Favors the Dead). Beyond fleshing out character, these traits help drive Secrets Typed in Blood, the third book in the series that subverts every detective fiction trope it introduces. It's 1947 as the novel opens, and Brooklyn's Pentecost Investigations receives a visit from a potential new client, who announces: "Somebody is stealing my murders." Holly Quick, a writer of crime fiction, explains that stories she published in Strange Crime magazine seem to have been used as blueprints for three unsolved murders: the real-life killing methods are uncannily like the ones she concocted for the magazine. Esteemed private detective Lillian Pentecost, whose multiple sclerosis hinders her body but not her brain, and her assistant, Willowjean "Will" Parker, take the case, determined to find the link among the three victims before the killer strikes again.
Secrets Typed in Blood is Parker's frequently hilarious after-the-fact write-up of the case. She calls to mind Sam Spade's gay sister when she notes that someone's skimpy outfit "was definitely not meant for the late-January cold, but if there was a goose bump on her, I couldn't find it." As for the mystery itself, at one point Holly Quick says of writing crime fiction: "Clues are the hardest part of my job. Figuring out how to slip them in." Spotswood has definitely figured this out.--Nell Beram, author and freelance writer