Chipped Pearls (Elvira Slate Investigations) - Helen Jacey (ARC)
"Christmas. 1945. Elvira Slate's sleuthing start-up is in trouble - all debts and no clients. When a hotshot criminal defence attorney offers her an assignment, Elvira jumps at the chance.
Dolly, a vulnerable and broke singer in an all-girl swing band, has been framed for murder of her rich lover and faces the death penalty. The case immerses Elvira in the world of jazz clubs and Hollywood high society. There are plenty of suspects but as many dead ends.
Elvira closes in on the killer, as old enemies and inner demons surface. Can she crack the case before she is dragged to hell?"
I received both Jailbird Detective and Chipped Pearls (from the Elvira Investigations series) by Helen Jacey for free from the publisher Shedunnit Productions. There was no obligation to review but it was my pleasure!
I will include all links to the books, author and publisher at the end of the review.
TW: sexual themes, some violence, death, suicide.
Although this review will mostly focus on Chipped Pearls, I do quickly want to mention the first book in the series Jailbird Detective which Shedunnit Productions were kind enough to send me as well! You don't need to read this book to understand Chipped Pearls but I would strongly recommend reading it because it is so good and offers Elvira's full origin story and how she becomes a private investigator.
In these books we are introduced to Elvira Slate. Elvira is an ex-con from England that skips out on probation and moves out to America for a new life. It is her determination and sense of justice that lead her to eventually becoming a PI. She is funny, sarcastic, intelligent, not afraid to ask for help but also willing to fight to make her voice heard. What I really love about this character is that she is a relatable real woman who has genuine vulnerable moments and they don't take away from her strength. She has definitely been added to my list of favourite fictional characters! Plus, she has detective skills that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame.
I love the theme of feminism in these books. It was so refreshing to have a female protagonist who doesn't exist just to tear down other female characters. It was nice how the author showcased women helping other women and the importance of them working together. For example, how Beatty, an experienced PI, took Elvira under her wing and became her mentor instead of viewing her as competition.
Additionally, I love how there were so many women characters in positions of authority. Such as the governor of the prison, lawyers and how Elvira and June are business owners! You don't usually see this with many books, especially ones set during the 1940's. Reading these was such a unique and special experience.
"Control by any man, even if it was for my own protection, was just not on the agenda."
Not only do these books have a good commentary on the patriarchy, they also deal with other sensitive areas such as the racism that was prevalent in America and the UK at the time. The LGBT+ representation was fantastic as well! I really appreciated all of the diverse characters that weren't just used as tokens and actually represented the loving and fun community.
This series is cleverly written with well rounded characters. There were so many twists and turns I didn't see them coming. Helen Jacey created an intricate interconnected web of mysteries that were thrilling, gripping and brilliant. They would make for a great TV show - c'mon Netflix! As Chipped Pearls is set during Christmas/New Years time it is the perfect stocking filler for any bookworm!
These books left me with only a couple of questions - please say there is going to be another one and is it too early to preorder it?
Thank you so much to Shedunnit Productions for this opportunity and for introducing these books into my life, I absolutely loved them! I knew as soon as I saw those gorgeous covers and read the blurbs that they were going to be a bit of me. You can find out more about Shedunnit productions on their Website, Twitter and Instagram.
About the Author
Helen Jacey is the founder of Shedunnit Productions and the creator of the feminist vintage noir series Elvira Slate Investigations. The first novel in the series Jailbird Detective was published in 2018. Helen has developed numerous projects for international film and television companies. Her biographical BBC 4 radio drama about Jean Rhys Miracle Postponed was short-listed for a Mental Health in the Media Award. Renowned for her expertise on feminism and the creative process, Helen has worked with film institutions and leading brands throughout the world. Her widely acclaimed screenwriting book The Woman in the Story: Writing Memorable Female Characters (Michael Wiese Productions, 2nd ed.2017) was the first to focus on gender and female representation.
Helen grew up in South London. She gained an MA in Screenwriting from The London Institute, 2001, and a PHD in Screenwriting from the University of Arts London, 2010. She has taught screenwriting and creative writing at several British universities.