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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Jazz Age YA Mystery an Appealing, Engrossing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Learning to be a proper society lady—even in the enlightened year of 1924 in the modern city of Chicago—can be downright dull, especially for someone like Piper Sail.  Her tongue refuses to be curbed, she can't sew worth beans, and the silly pranks she pulls off at school are the stuff of legend.  She may be headed to college in just a few months, but she still hasn't quite learned to control her penchant for mischief.  Piper's best friend, Lydia LeVine, is the opposite.  She's a sweet, obedient girl whose only sin is her desperate crush on her family's chauffer.  Although Piper has warned Lydia not to do more than flirt with a man so far below her station, Piper worries her pleas are falling on deaf ears.  When Lydia disappears, Piper is certain she has run off and eloped.  With each day that passes with no word from her best friend, however, she becomes more distressed.  Where is Lydia?  Her naiveté and epileptic seizures would have made her especially vulnerable to anyone's nefarious schemes.  Piper fears something terrible has happened to her friend.

Although handsome detective Mariano Cassano is on the case, he's not finding answers fast enough for Piper.  With the reluctant help of a couple friends, she launches her own investigation.  As she explores Chicago's ugly underbelly, so full of corruption and crime, she realizes for the first time just how dangerous her hometown really is.  In a gritty city run by mobsters, anything could have happened to a woman as young and innocent as Lydia.  Piper's own neck is on the line as she follows a perilous path littered with disturbing clues.  Will she find its end in time to save Lydia?  Or will she become another rich girl mysteriously disappeared from swanky, secretive Astor Street?

I love me a good historical mystery, so I was naturally drawn to The Lost Girl of Astor Street, a YA novel by Stephanie Morrill.  The colorful Jazz Age setting makes for an appealing backdrop to a compelling story.  Piper and her associates are warm, sympathetic characters who are easy to like and root for.  While I saw a lot of the plot's twists coming (unlike Piper, who's a little slow on the uptake), it offered enough surprises to keep me reading.  The tale's structure is a bit loosey-goosey with extraneous characters (Walter, for instance) and story lines that don't really go anywhere (like Piper's flirtation with Jeremiah).  Perhaps Morrill left some possibilities dangling for a potential sequel?  I'd read that!  In spite of these small irritants, I enjoyed The Lost Girl of Astor Street.  It's an engrossing, entertaining mystery that kept me reading.  

One last note:  The Lost Girl of Astor Street is published by Blink, a division of HarperCollins that specializes in clean, uplifting literature for young adults.  Although there's no graphic content in the book, it does refer to issues like prostitution, white slavery, mob violence, etc. which warrants a PG-13 rating (at least in my opinion).  Also, while my library put a "FAITH" label on the novel's spine, I wouldn't really consider it Christian fiction.  Praying and going to church is mentioned a couple of times in the story, but religion isn't really discussed.  If you're put off by the "FAITH" distinction, don't be.  There's nothing preachy here.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a bit of These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. This sounds like the kind of historical mystery I'd really like. Books set in the 1920s are always fun to read. :)

  2. I do love books set in this time period. This sounds like an entertaining read.

  3. I haven't had much luck with YA in awhile but I love the setting and the sound of this mystery. I think I might do better with the historical setting then a contemporary.

  4. A mystery, Chicago, and a historical setting? Sounds pretty good to me.

  5. This almost sounds like a YA book I could read... but the romance... hm... maybe... maybe not. Thanks.


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