Sign me up for all the latest razzmatazz about the Chronicles books and the 1920s and get the novella DESTINATIONS for FREE!!Don't miss out!

Watch Your Back- Review

Independent Book Reviews- April 23rd, 2019

Mickey Duffy is losing his mind, and the Bootleggers’ Chronicles series is lifting to new heights in this fourth installment, Watch Your Back.

From the very beginning of the series, there was no shortage of crime. But now in the fourth book, prohibition-era Philadelphia has reached perhaps its most dangerous. The law doesn’t carry too much weight around here anymore, so it’s up to Maggie Barnes and inspector-ghost Frank Geyer to bring safety back to the city of brotherly love.

In Watch Your Back, Maggie and Frank focus on trapping gangsters into financial fraud schemes instead of using their usual tactics of catching them red-handed to finally get the bootleggers off the streets. It seems that Maggie’s bookkeeping skills are going to come in handy. Again. But the more she investigates, the more she veers further away from the person she’s been trying to protect: her son. Tommy has an enlarged role in this book, getting older before our eyes and starting to get into some trouble of his own, like running bets for a bookie and eventually, becoming chums with the one and only Mickey Duffy.

Decter’s choice to use Tommy to pull at our heartstrings and make us recognize the consequences of Maggie’s actions (even though she doesn’t notice them yet) could be the strongest and clearest path that Decter has taken in her series yet. It’s a perfect complication she’s laid down here, and I can’t wait to see it get even stronger in book 5.

In addition to getting more Tommy in book four, we are also introduced to newsies for the first time, and it offers the reader such a thrill to recognize the crime running parallel to bootlegging in the streets of Philadelphia. Everywhere we look, a new power structure is forming, and in this case, it looks like a kid. What a wonderful addition.

The aspect that might be brewing the biggest of consequences could be that of Mickey Duffy’s mental health. Something is going on inside the king of the bootleggers’ head, and it’s impacting everyone, like right-hand man Henry and unsuspecting victims all throughout the city. Decter does an excellent job of stringing this storyline along at a tantalizing pace, making me never know what problem Duffy’s going to stir up next.

After the previous books introduced the reader to Maggie’s conflict with her father, in this one we finally get to grow closer to the mysterious man who may have gotten Maggie’s husband killed. While I’m glad that this secondary narrative is starting to break into the primary one, Maggie’s reconciliation with her father does come across as a bit forced and maybe a bit too fast here. It doesn’t land for me quite the way I would have liked, so I’ll be paying attention to it in the next book to figure out if their developing relationship will work for me.

Also, I struggled to put together what exactly the primary narrative was for this particular installment. While I know that things are building toward the finale, I would have liked something a bit more concrete to keep me excited that I’m on the bridge with the finale on the other side.

However, Watch Your Back does succeed in getting me from book three to book five with entertainment and well-structured development. Decter’s been leaving breadcrumbs for us, and I can’t believe that we’re nearing the end. Now that Tommy is more involved in the plot, the stakes are much higher and the climax is almost sure to hit as hard as we need it to.

Get yourself cued in before it’s too late. Book five can’t come soon enough.

Joe Walters