Debut author Stephen Spotswood’s Fortune Favors the Dead introduces us to detective Lillian Pentecost and her right-hand woman/chronicler, Willowjean Parker, a mid-Nineteen Forties pair that resembles a gender-swapped Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.
Their research into the murder of prominent New York City matriarch Abigail Collins—observed together with her head bashed in interior her late husband’s locked-from-the-interior study—almost takes a lower back seat to the intrepid detectives themselves. Willow grew up with a traveling circus, and Lillian suffers from a couple of sclerosis, making them as instantly exciting as any conventional detective tandem, whether or not it be Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson or the aforementioned Wolfe and Goodwin.
Written with witty prose, Fortune Favors the Dead is and regularly humorous and fun—nowhere close to the stuffy analytical voice of Dr. Watson. Instead, with its cast of suspects (all effectively indexed at the start of the e-book to assist readers maintain track), it has the hallmarks of an Agatha Christie mystery, and there’s a lovely dose of noir thrown in for the more hardcore pulp fiction crowd, too. All the tried and true strategies of detection are obtrusive here, as Willow follows cagey suspects (which includes a mysterious medium/spiritualist and a cynical college professor) across the city and interviews every person from the own family of the deceased to the waitstaff. There’s even a nearby police detective who begrudgingly accepts Lillian’s involvement in the case against his better judgment, a l. A. Inspector Lestrade.
Oh, and that case they’re operating on? It’s as mysterious and fun a caper as you'll ever read, with plenty of misdirection and intrigue to preserve you guessing. You don’t want a clairvoyant to realize this duo may be around for years to come.