The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker by Charlene Bell Dietz Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker by Charlene Bell Dietz; Quill Mark Press, 2017. 297 pages; $16.99 (paperback); reading level: adult.

This prequel to The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur (2016) is set in 1923 and provides the backstory on Kathleen McPherson, the aging flapper/sleuth in the earlier-published book. Kathleen is seventeen in this new novel, about to graduate from a Minneapolis high school, and is carrying on (chastely) with a married employee at her father’s bank. An aspiring dancer and a chain smoker, she’s in rebellion against her parents’ plans to send her off to Stephens Women’s College in Columbia, Missouri. A classmate’s murder in a park near her home and the sense that she’s being stalked provide the perfect motivation to run away to Chicago (her best friend in tow) in pursuit of her dancing dreams. The Minneapolis murder, along with its tangle of characters, follows her to Chicago. Dietz’s plot takes its cue from the melodramatic silent films of the 1920s. She sends her heroine careening from one cliffhanger to the next, as Kathleen, often unbelievably savvy beyond her years, negotiates a field of gangsters, desperate actresses, the mentally unhinged, and one emotionally damaged love interest. For the reader not put off by the deliberate use of coincidence and overwrought writing (offset to some extent by scholarly quotes preceding each chapter), Kathleen’s ten-year journey from Minneapolis to Chicago to Detroit to St. Thomas to Denver is a crazy romp that lands her, at long last, in a place of self- realization. “Happiness only lives in the heart,” the bit of wisdom on a slip of paper pulled from a Chinese fortune cookie just before Kathleen leaves home, suggests what her true journey has been all about.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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