A Review of the LILLY LONG MYSTERY SERIES by Penny Richards

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AN UNTIMELY FORST by Penny Richards is a very interesting historical mystery novel set in the early 1880’s. Main character, Lilly Long, is in her early twenties and is an actress with a traveling group. A few months before the novel opens, Penny married a man named Timothy Warner. The novel begins with Timothy assaulting Lilly and her surrogate mother, Rose, and making off with Lilly’s life savings. Looking to protect women like herself – and her mother who was murdered years ago by her lover – Lilly applies for a job as a female operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. It takes some convincing, but Lilly manages to get hired on a trial basis.

For her first assignment, Lilly is sent to southern Illinois to look for a missing family. Around twenty years ago, Harold Purcell robbed the church where he preached at and disappeared along with his wife and daughter. Lilly is tasked with finding the Purcell family and figuring out if they are willing to sell the large home that they still own. It doesn’t take Lilly long to realize that something more than an old robbery is going on. The Purcell family had been living well beyond their means, none of the townspeople want to talk about the Purcell family, and it’s clear that something horrible happened in the house. After learning what she could from the townspeople and the personal belongings left in the house, Lilly travels to the state capitol where she accidently finds Mrs. Purcell. After speaking with Mrs. Purcell and traveling back to Vandalia, Lilly’s first case takes a dark turn.

There were some historical inaccuracies – mainly the author used words that would not have been used during the 1880’s – but most of them can be easily overlooked. Overall, AN UNTIMELY FROST was an enjoyable read. Lilly is a well-developed, likeable character. Agent Cade McShane, Lilly’s shadow throughout the novel, seems like an interesting character and I look forward to more appearances from him in later novels. Her first case starts out as something boring and mundane, but it quickly becomes an intriguing cold case. There is some early forensic science involved. And there is a twist in the end that readers won’t see coming.

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THOUGH THIS BE MADNESS, the second novel in the Lilly Long Mystery series, begins almost immediately after AN UNTIMELY FROST leaves off. Pinkerton detective, Lilly Long, has just wrapped up her first investigation for the agency, and she barely has time to breath before she is sent off on an undercover operation in New Orleans along with her new partner. Agent Cade McShane has been working for the Pinkertons for years, and he is less than thrilled to be saddled with a young, inexperienced female agent. Lilly isn’t very happy about the arrangement either – especially since she and Cade will be posing as a married couple while working as servants in the wealthy Fontenot household. Mrs. Fontenot, an elderly widow, believes that her grandson’s widow has been taken in by her new husband and that he has sent her to an insane asylum in an attempt to wrest away the Fontenot family fortune that his wife inherited when her first husband died. It is up to Lilly and Cade to discover what is really going on in the Fontenot family.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed THOUGH THIS BE MADNESS. The case itself is interesting, but, with Lilly and Cade working as servants in the household, it seems like the majority of their time is spent doing household chores instead of investigating. They also have a ten-year-old boy helping them, which seems a little farfetched. Robbie Jenkins’ main role in the novel is to do things that the adults wouldn’t be able to do, but it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the adults are even allowing a child (no matter how precocious and street smart he is) to help them out. While the plot does drag at times, other sections of the novel make up for it. The case, which seems almost mundane at first, begins to take twists and turns. There is a lot more going on than a nefarious man trying to get his hands on his wife’s former husband’s property and money. The budding romance between Lilly and Cade is intriguing. And Cade’s run-in with Lilly’s ex-husband also adds something to the novel.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Pinkerton agents Lilly Long and Cade McShane are back in MURDER WILL SPEAK (published April 24, 2018 by Kensington Publishing Corporation). In the third installment of the Lilly Long Mystery Series, Lilly and Cade travel to Fort Worth, Texas, on a job that is personal to Lilly. One of Lilly’s friends from her acting days recently moved to Texas as a mail-order bride. Instead of getting married and settling into a new life, Nora Nash was forced into prostitution. Nora managed to contact Lilly and ask her to come help her, and the other women and children who are working in the brothels in Hell’s Half Acre. Lilly, Cade, and Cade’s sister Erin (a prostitute in Chicago) arrive too late to save Nora, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to find the personal responsible for Nora’s murder. They also try to unravel the prostitution ring and find the person who is supplying the women and children to the brothels.

MURDER WILL SPEAK is a good follow up to the other two books in the Lilly Long series. Both Lilly’s and Cade’s character development continues to progress, adding more depth to their characters. A lot of Cade’s past is revealed in this novel. As Lilly’s detecting skills improve, she begins to question why she is a Pinkerton. She wants to help people, but seeing the ugly sides of human nature leaves her deeply disturbed. Her moral struggle will keep the reader engaged. But there are certain things about Lilly and her attitude that rubs me the wrong way. Even after nearly getting killed, she still has the attitude that she could never kill someone. It might be a personal thing, but, to me, that just doesn’t seem like the right attitude for someone to have when they are frequently dealing with criminals and killers. Otherwise, the MURDER WILL SPEAK was very enjoyable. The time period is very well captured, and the continuing storyline is intriguing.