by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Back Stabbers, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
In March of 1975, long before the #MeToo movement and still lingering in the Mad Men era, the brokerage firm of Bisby, Marshall & Wallace is a male-led office staffed by vulnerable young and attractive women. Widowed Ellison Russell has learned how to fend off advances by entitled men assuming she was available and needy, but Winthrop Marshall has proved to be the most obnoxious. He still delivers on her financial investments, though, which Ellison considers just enough for her to put up with his lecherous come-ons. It seems that someone disagreed with that attitude, though, as Ellison has the unfortunate privilege of seeing his dead body, a murdered Winthrop literally with his pants down.
While Ellison’s mother laments that her daughter once again disappoints by being an embarrassing discoverer of bodies, it is Ellison’s father who proves to be the disruptive force in her life. Having only recently revealed that he had a daughter before marrying Ellison’s mother, Harrington Walford informs Ellison that her half-sister will be arriving in town for a visit, and can Ellison please play hostess. Knowing that there is little other choice and that her mother is destined for an epic blowout, Ellison agrees to allow Karma Michaels to stay as they meet for the first time. What Ellison didn’t expect is that the beautiful and intelligent Karma would stir up adolescent-level feelings of jealousy and rivalry, not just with a suddenly-paternal father, but with new boyfriend Anarchy Jones. The Homicide detective seems to have a past with the impressive MBA Stanford graduate, and Ellison is feeling inadequate and insecure. For once it’s her exuberant best friend Libba who provides some unexpectedly rational and practical advice when she’s not helping Ellison follow the trail of women harmed by the brokerage’s sexism.
As always, seeing Ellison grown stronger and more independent with each new novel is a delightful treat that warms the heart and has readers cheering for her success. Ellison is at a point where she no longer kowtows to the Kansas City elitists and snaps back at wannabe socialite mean girl. By taking place in the past, the novel highlights just how far attitudes have come, and just how far we still have to go. The body count grows surprisingly high in this extremely funny, biting commentary on this insulated high society. Even more entertaining are Ellison’s family dynamics as she raises an increasingly assertive teenaged daughter and learns to know her parents as flawed adults.
In addition to the seventies mindset, the era comes alive with mentions of Supertramp, new paperbacks costing two dollars, and funeral hams and Bundt cakes. This novel of the past succeeds in feeling timely as well, with a newly independent Ellison demanding and standing up for women in the workplace. Ellison is the sharp-witted, occasionally sardonic, strong woman of the past we can all hope to be in the future.
Check out other Henery Press mysteries on their website.
To enter to win a copy of Back Stabbers, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “stabbers,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 19, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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