Gold-Diggers, Gamblers And Guns by Ellen Mansoor Collier – Blog Tour & Review
Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns
Jazz Aage Mysteries series – Book #3
by Ellen Mansoor Collier
Release Date: May 18, 2014
During Prohibition, Galveston Island was called the “Free State of Galveston” due to its lax laws and laissez-faire attitude toward gambling, gals and bootlegging. Young society reporter Jasmine (Jazz) Cross longs to cover hard news, but she’s stuck between two clashing cultures: the world of gossip and glamour vs. gangsters and gamblers.
After Downtown Gang leader Johnny Jack Nounes is released from jail, all hell breaks loose: Prohibition Agent James Burton’s life is threatened and he must go into hiding for his own safety. But when he’s framed for murder, he and Jazz work together to prove his innocence. Johnny Jack blames her half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis speakeasy, for his arrest and forces him to work overtime in a variety of dangerous mob jobs as punishment.
When a bookie is murdered, Jazz looks for clues linking the two murders and delves deeper into the underworld of gambling: poker games, slot machines and horse-racing. Meanwhile, Jazz tries to keep both Burton and her brother safe, and alive, while they face off against each other, as well as a common enemy. A soft-boiled mystery inspired by actual events.
Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is book 3 in Ellen Mansoor Collier’s A Jazz Mystery series. Jumping “blind” into the action, it wasn’t easy to navigate my way through the story arc so established from the beginning, but it had an intriguing beat and made “connecting the dots” both a challenge and a lot of fun! Sink in to learn about 1920’s Galveston, Texas during the Prohibition, uncover a murder mystery and swoon over a budding romance.
Jazz is a “lowly society reporter” (waste of an inquisitive mind) for the Gazette and is involved with, though she doesn’t know how seriously, James Burton, the “lone Galveston Prohibition agent”. Out for a night on the town at the Hollywood Dinner Club, a speakeasy and casino owned by the Maceo brothers (whose clientele is questionable at best), a club where you go to be seen (why exactly is Agent Burton making himself so visible?), someone takes a gamble and fires upon James and Jazz as they wait at the valet. Feigning that he’d been hit (and opted to lay low as a consequence), Agent Burton sets out to find out who’d want his hide (or who wouldn’t more accurately) in the middle of turf wars between the Downtown and Beach gang rivalries.
When cops and crooks shared beers at bars, you never knew who to trust or who would take advantage of privileged information.
So much for exploring all things romantic! Consider that subject on hold. How can Jazz entertain such flights of fancy when things take a turn for the worse? Jazz’s half-brother, Sammy (who plays a big role in G-D, G & G) was just “hired” as Downtown gang’s bag boy (collector of fees by fair means or foul) by notorious Johnny Jack, who’s gunning for Agent Burton in a bad way. When a local bar owner, friend to all, but behind on his debt, is murdered in his own club, the plot just thickens. When it rains it pours! Now why exactly was Agent Burton’s bullet-holed Stetson found at that crime scene?
Burton jerked up off the couch, blue eyes blazing. “I knew it! Those goddamn gangsters are trying to frame me for murder!”…
“What will you do?”
Burton shoved his hands in his pockets, pacing the parlor. “The only way I can prove my innocence is to find the real killer, or as the case may be, killers.”
The intrepid Jazz, never one to be left behind, won’t stay out of the loop if she can help it (especially if her fella and brother are at risk). So while Burton is busy exonerating himself (unearthing the goings-on between gang and police camaraderie), Jazz is simultaneously, but unobtrusively investigating crime scenes she’s been privy to, courtesy of her profession (though not sharing with her beau!) This is sticky, dangerous business for gangsters let alone interlopers. Especially those who show up unannounced at pre-arranged booze drops between crime boss, Johnny Jack, Sammy and Cuban rum-runners. The feds will be there, headed by Agent Burton. Will Jazz’s altruism be her undoing?
My heart raced as I imagined the scenario. “So I’m supposed to sit by and do nothing? Wait for Sammy or Burton-or both-to get killed?”
“What can we do, seriously? Is it better to watch them get shot in person?”
Like I said in my introduction, it’s hard to jump into the middle of a series, but the effort was worth it! While the story developed, with lots of leads to follow, I kept hoping for a more personal connection from Burton and Jazz. A review I perused raved about the increased romance in this book, but it’s simply laced; lovingly, but not woven throughout (makes me wonder how far this couple has come. Yes, I’ll read the first two now.) 😀
Ms. Collier tells a great story about murder and corruption in Prohibition Galveston that spreads like the plague if not contained. The viewpoints are interesting; some are in it for revenge, greed and power while others were just trying to survive the mean streets. Ms. Collier masterfully exposes the underbelly of 1920’s Prohibition, delivers the sights, sounds and culture of the flapper era (great vocabulary and expressions!), and shows the struggle, in and out of the law, for the demands of alcohol. Reasons and resolutions revealed for a killer summer read!
Reviewed by Carmen
Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles, essays and short stories have been published in a variety of national magazines. During college summers, she worked as a reporter (intern) for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.
A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine, and was active in WICI (Women in Communications), acting as president her senior year.