A Great Depression-Era Mystery in “Tough Cookie”

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Tough CookieMaggie Sullivan is a 24-year-old private investigator in 1939 Dayton who gets hired to track down Harold Draper, a man who scammed thousands of dollars out of the wealthy in society in M. Ruth Meyers’ Tough Cookie. As Maggie meets with her client, Mr. Wildman, for the first time, she proves herself resourceful when the man’s drunk sister shows up at the house with a gun that Maggie disarms the woman of cleverly. This experience confirms to Wildman that Maggie is the one for the job.

The next morning, Maggie goes out to interview the five men Wildman names as also having been swindled by Draper and learns that one man on the list has just committed suicide because the theft has ruined him completely. Maggie also learns about Rachel, a woman who invested in the project but pulled her money out just in time after getting suspicious about the project used to scam the rich men. Then, later that day Maggie gets word that a body has been pulled out of the river and identified as Draper. Thinking her job must be concluded now that someone else has gotten to Draper, Maggie is surprised that Wildman wants her to find the killer. Thinking back to her conversation with Rachel, she brings up the fact that the other woman mentioned that Draper had a partner. So now Maggie’s job description has changed. She is to look for the partner, who probably killed Draper and helped swindle several men out of a lot of money.

But the search for this partner proves to be no easy task, further being fraught with danger as she now seeks not just a swindler but a murderer. Working all her contacts, which include cops, newspaper boys, and shady men, Maggie traces the details until she solves the case in a dramatic fashion.

This book was very enjoyable, with some interesting developments. Even though I am used to listening to softer cozy mysteries, I still really liked the way this book brought the Depression era to life, complete with the lives of people from various social strata and the methods required to do detective work without the aid of computers or cell phones.

My only complaint about the book is that there were so many different characters that I got really confused trying to sort them out. Even by the end, I still really had a hard time remembering who a certain name referred to. My suggestion for future books is that the author insert descriptors of the characters as they come up again in the book. Even just a few words would serve to enable us readers to attach the identity of the character to her or his name.

This book is ably narrated by Mary Ann Jacobs. I liked the way she uses tones of voice and accents to bring to life the Depression era. She is well suited to the particular choice of books to have her read.

Tough Cookie is actually the second book in its series, but it is not necessary to have read the previous book in order to enjoy this one. I give this book four stars!

Disclaimer: I was given a free audio copy by the author with the hopes, but no expectations, that I would then review the book. This fact in no way affected my analysis or rating of Tough Cookie.

To purchase this book for yourself, click here on Amazon.

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