Book Review: Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

It’s 1945 and Lillian Pentecost is the most successful private detective in New York City, but she needs help. Enter Willowjean Parker, a circus runaway – and the perfect assistant. Quick-witted and street-smart, she’s a jack-of-all-trades with a unique skill-set. She can pick locks blindfolded, wrestle men twice her size, and throw knives with deadly precision – all of which come in handy working for Ms P.

When wealthy young widow Abigail Collins is murdered Pentecost and Parker are hired by the family to track down the culprit. On Halloween night, there was a costume party at the Collins’ mansion, where a fortune teller performed a seance which greatly disturbed Abigail. Several hours later her body was discovered bludgeoned to death in her late husband’s office. Problem is, the door to the office was locked from the inside. There was no-one else in the room, and the murder weapon was beside the victim; the fortune teller’s crystal ball.

It looks like an impossible crime, but Pentecost and Parker know there is no such thing…

What I Thought:

Thanks to Netgalley November and my quest to get up to that fabled 80%, I’ve read some pretty darn good books recently! Fortune Favours the Dead was so much this, that I immediately got hold of the second book in the series, which was released this week.

What a fantastic debut this is! It ticks all the right boxes for me, being historical crime fiction, set in 1940s New York and I was completely riveted from the first few pages. The murder mystery plot was very well done too – I just didn’t see it, which makes me really happy.

A lot of what made me like this book is that the plot is carried by strong women. Lillian Pentecost is an unapologetic genius at solving crime while her apprentice, Willowjean Parker is equally brilliant, but hot-headed and eager to go about things her own way.

There was plenty of well-used period detail that really pulls you into the novel, but there is also a modernity to some of the attitudes – especially within the resolution that I can’t elaborate on due to spoilers. Overall a really solid and readable beginning to a series – I’ll review the second book later in the week.

About the Author:

STEPHEN SPOTSWOOD (he/him) is an award-winning playwright, journalist, and educator. As a journalist, he has spent much of the last two decades writing about the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the struggles of wounded veterans. His dramatic work has been widely produced across the United States. He makes his home in Washington, D.C. with his wife, young adult author Jessica Spotswood.

You can find Stephen Spotswood online at

Please note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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1 Response to Book Review: Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Murder Under Her Skin by Stephen Spotswood | It Takes A Woman

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