Murder Under Her Skin: A Pentecost and Parker Mystery - book cover
  • Publisher : Doubleday
  • Published : 07 Dec 2021
  • Pages : 368
  • ISBN-10 : 0385547129
  • ISBN-13 : 9780385547123
  • Language : English

Murder Under Her Skin: A Pentecost and Parker Mystery

Rex Stout meets Agatha Christie with a fresh twist in the new Pentecost and Parker Mystery, a delightfully hardboiled high-wire act starring two daring woman sleuths dead set on justice as they set out to solve a murder at a traveling circus

Someone's put a blade in the back of the Amazing Tattooed Woman, and Willowjean "Will" Parker's former knife-throwing mentor has been stitched up for the crime. To uncover the truth, Will and her boss, world-famous detective Lillian Pentecost, travel south to the circus where they find a snakepit of old grudges, small-town crime, and secrets worth killing for.
New York, 1946: The last time Will Parker let a case get personal, she walked away with a broken face, a bruised ego, and the solemn promise never again to let her heart get in the way of her job. But she called Hart and Halloway's Travelling Circus and Sideshow home for five years, and Ruby Donner, the circus's tattooed ingenue, was her friend. To make matters worse the prime suspect is Valentin Kalishenko, the man who taught Will everything she knows about putting a knife where it needs to go. 
To suss out the real killer and keep Kalishenko from a date with the electric chair, Will and Ms. Pentecost join the circus in sleepy Stoppard, Virginia, where the locals like their cocktails mild, the past buried, and big-city detectives not at all. The two swiftly find themselves lost in a funhouse of lies as Will begins to realize that her former circus compatriots aren't playing it straight, and that her murdered friend might have been hiding a lot of secrets beneath all that ink. 
Dodging fistfights, firebombs, and flying lead, Will puts a lot more than her heart on the line in the search of the truth. Can she find it before someone stops her ticker for good?

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Murder Under Her Skin:

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

"A delight. . . It's a pleasure to watch [Pentecost and Parker] sifting through red herrings and peeling secrets back like layers of an onion, all while revealing even more of themselves without guilt or shame. Just like his mystery-writing ancestor [Rex Stout], Spotswood understands that the detective story should be sound, but spending time with unforgettable characters is paramount."-The New York Times Book Review

"Spotswood's ability to subvert genre tropes with intriguing and distinctive characters… make this whodunit a delightfully unusual read. Readers will look forward to Pentecost and Parker's further adventures."-Publishers Weekly

"Will's slangy first-person narrative is captivating, and fans of circus life, such as it was, will enjoy this tale, as will followers of the 1940s hard-boiled detective genre, considerably enlivened here by having two no-nonsense women do the sleuthing."-Booklist

"Rich circus atmosphere and a satisfying puzzle."-Kirkus Reviews

"Set amid the glitz and glimmer of showbiz, [Murder Under Her Skin] expose[s] the corruption and abuse that exists after the shine of spotlights go out. But even more than that, [it examines a critical period] during which women's roles were shifting as they demanded more freedoms. . . As they work the case, Will and Lillian find the world in flux around them, which Spotswood ably explores without distracting from the central mystery. . . None of the characters in this mystery quite know how to cope with these seismic cultural changes, setting Murder Under Her Skin apart from more simplistic stories set in the same time period."-BookPage

Praise for Stephen Spotswood and the Pentecost and Parker Mystery Series:

Winner of the 2021 Nero Award

"Razor-sharp style, tons of flair, a snappy sense of humor, and all the most satisfying elements of a really good noir novel." -Tana French, author of The Searcher

"Bullets, blood, bodies, and belly-laughs: all the ingredients of a classic mystery novel. Stephen Spotswood hard-boils with the best of ‘em!" -Alan Bradley, author of the Flavia de Luce Mystery Series

"Takes gritty 40s noir, shakes it up, gives it a charming twist, and serves it up with unforgettable style. My new favorite sleuthing duo are Pentecost and Parker, the spiritual sisters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. An utterly brilliant debut!" -Deanna Raybourn, author ...

Readers Top Reviews

Cathy G. Cole
This second book in Stephen Spotswood's Pentecost & Parker historical mystery series, Murder Under Her Skin, is even better than the first (Fortune Favors the Dead). World-famous detective Lillian Pentecost and her protégée Willowjean "Will" Parker are a rare combination in crime fiction. Pentecost has a mind like the proverbial steel trap, a glass eye, and multiple sclerosis. Teenage Will Parker ran away from an abusive situation at home and finally spent five years in a circus before joining Pentecost. It's not often that readers come across two hardboiled female gumshoes, but Pentecost and Parker excel in their roles. Taking Will back to Hart & Halloway's Traveling Circus lets readers learn more of her backstory, and the small circus setting in 1946 rural Virginia is so well done that I felt as though I were right in the thick of things. Will finds it hard to believe that the people she considers family are lying to her, and it makes her uncomfortable knowing that Pentecost may learn things about her past that Will doesn't necessarily want her to know. Murder Under Her Skin is told in Will's irreverent voice, and I love it. She has an excellent turn of phrase, whether it be in describing the sounds a group of tarantulas make when it's on the move, or in noticing that no one sits in a dead man's chair when she visits someone's home. One of my favorites? When Will describes an ill-tempered guard dog of a secretary: "She kept a close eye on us from the gunner's turret of her desk." The mental picture that immediately sprang to my mind was perfection. Another piece of perfection was the mystery itself. Spotswood has crafted a mystery that kept me completely in the dark from beginning to end, and once everything was revealed, I could see where he'd planted his clues all along the way. I read a boatload of crime fiction, so I love it when an author can do this to me. Stephen Spotswood's Pentecost & Parker series has become one of my favorites in just two books. I can't wait to see what these two get up to in their next investigation. (Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Net Galley)