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IL Review- Independent Book Reviews

March 12, 2019

Criminals, ghosts, and an unlikely woman fighting for a better world. Innocence Lost might be exactly the atmospheric historical mystery that you’ve been waiting for.

In 1924 Philadelphia, crime rules the city. Notorious bootleggers like Mickey Duffy don’t take kindly to those who get in their way, even if they’re his wife’s best friends. Innocence Lost proves to be a glowing first novel in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles series, setting the reader up for monumental growth, disastrous downfalls, and plenty of secrets to keep you guessing.

Maggie Barnes has just about everything that you’re looking for in a lead character: bravery, her back against a wall, and something big to strive for. As a widow in a backwards time, she struggles to make ends meet and to take care of her young son, but after bringing in a group of lodgers to help generate income, she discovers that the extra money might come with a few complications.

Innocence Lost has a ton of great things going for it. First of all, Maggie Barnes is likeable from her very first appearance. She is placed in a difficult situation and does everything she can to get it out of it on her own. Once you see the way her mother treats her and how much she truly cares about being her own independent woman, you’ll be sure to gather up their pom-poms and get ready to cheer her on.

But perhaps the best aspect of this novel is the atmosphere of 1924 Philadelphia. The world is laid out for us so gracefully and thoroughly by Sherilyn Decter. Thanks to realistic dialogue and the author’s evident ability to paint scenes and situations, the reader has no problem understanding what it’s like living in this place at this time.

Following the death of one of her son’s friends, Maggie quickly realizes that the police would rather protect bootleggers than solve the kid’s mysterious death. But when she meets an inspector who’s willing to fight for justice and find the truth in the case, she knows her job is only just beginning. Only problem? The inspector’s been dead for years.

Maggie and the ghost of Frank Geyer set out to solve the mystery and give us something truly remarkable to pay attention to. Decter demonstrates her skill for introducing these ghostly aspects through pace and mystery, and I couldn’t be happier that this is the direction that she took us in.

However, I did have a few issues with the novel too. Foremost, I experienced a bit of disappointment when the primary narrative veered away from the ghost investigation. Frank Geyer had all the tools to really shine as a minor character, but after his intriguing introduction, the reader spends less and less time getting to the bottom of that particular mystery, making the reader feel as though he played the role solely to help Maggie talk to herself while on the page.

I also kept waiting for a climax that never came. To me, the novel was setting up for Maggie to overcome her obstacles and make a game-changing decision that would alter the course of the novel, but it didn’t happen. We’ve got some promises that things will change in the next book, but I definitely wanted to experience a version of that change in this one too.

Overall, Innocence Lost offers a truly enjoyable reading experience. Filled with realistic characters and believable motivation, I went happily along for the novel’s ride, letting the Philadelphia Prohibition period take over. This novel would be an excellent choice for all those interested in historical mystery, crime, and a dash of ghostly escapades.

Joe Walters