Deadly Summer Nights
A Catskill Summer Resort Mystery, Book #1
By Vicky Delany
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
A summer of fun at a Catskills resort comes to an abrupt end when a guest is found murdered, in this new 1950s set mystery series.
It’s the summer of 1953, and Elizabeth Grady is settling into Haggerman’s Catskills Resort. As a vacation getaway, Haggerman’s is ideal, and although Elizabeth’s ostentatious but well-meaning mother is new to running the resort, Elizabeth is eager to help her organize the guests and the entertainment acts. But Elizabeth will have to resort to untested abilities if she wants to save her mother’s business.
When a reclusive guest is found dead in a lake on the grounds, and a copy of The Communist Manifesto is found in his cabin, the local police chief is convinced that the man was a Russian spy. But Elizabeth isn’t so sure, and with the fate of the resort hanging in the balance, she’ll need to dodge red herrings, withstand the Red Scare, and catch a killer red-handed. (Goodreads)
Readers will find Deadly Summer Nights a breath of fresh air (smoking references aside) in a cozy/historical mystery market flooded with Victorian through WWII settings. It moves the calendar forward to 1953, and though the war is still a fresh memory, the west has moved on to another enemy – Russia – and the air is ripe with McCarthy Era Communist paranoia. A solid sense of place and time, well drawn characters, and a clever murder mystery come together to make a wildly entertaining read.
Elizabeth is a war widow and runs the day-to-day operations of her mother’s resort in the Catskills. Haggerman’s Resort (think Dirty Dancing or, more recently, Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) is idyllic, but it is Elizabeth’s mother Olivia, a dance star of stage and screen, that is the draw, and who Elizabeth relies on to smooth over any guests’ ruffled feathers. And, boy, are there ruffled feathers when one of the guests is found deceased in the lake. When the local chief of police starts spouting off that the murdered guest was a communist and calls in the FBI, Elizabeth looks to find the truth before the reputation of the resort and their livelihood is completely ruined.
Author Vicky Delany’s meticulous attention to period details and vivid descriptions really transports readers to the Catskill Mountains in the nineteen-fifties. Deadly Summer Nights is the perfect summer escapist reading. The story moves along at a fairly brisk pace and is engaging from first to last page. There are plenty of clues and red herrings to keep this reader guessing throughout. I was gobsmacked by the climactic revelation of the killer’s identity.
I really like Elizabeth. She is strong, intelligent, and determined to make Haggerman’s a success. She faces plenty of sexual discrimination true to the era from a rival resort owner, the police chief, and the FBI, but she handles it all with aplomb and maturity. She is surrounded by a strong core of supporting characters (more formidable women and progressive thinking men), and I quite adore her Aunt Tatiana and her bulldog Winston. Olivia is rather shallow and sometimes oblivious, but I cannot help but enjoy her diva attitude. Elizabeth’s best friend and resort outdoor activities director Velvet makes a wonderful sidekick. The victim’s nephew Jim is appealing, as is the rival resort’s son Richard.
Deadly Summer Nights is a real treat sure to please armchair travelers and historical mystery lovers alike. Highly recommended.