Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Harlem 1920s

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

Darkness and the Devil Behind Me

by Persia Walker

Lanie Price writes the society page for The Harlem Chronicle. Although content to highlight the positive doings of Harlem’s professionals, she becomes increasingly outraged over the harsh injustices suffered by those left behind. When pressed to find the truth about the mysterious disappearance of a young talented pianist named Esther Todd, Lanie taps into her skills learned as a past crime reporter. What she finds are puzzles and secrets surrounding the assumed link between the girl’s disappearance and a million dollar heist at the home of Todd’s society patron. As Lanie uncovers new suspects, multiple violent crimes begin to occur and her own life is threatened.

Lanie Price is a woman of many layers. Even though forced more than once to check her temper over slights regarding her race, her biggest obstacle is her difficulty to overcome her grief over the sudden death of her husband. In spite of this, a stubborn and relentless Lanie finds a sympathetic and possible romantic ally in her boss.

Walker writes well about the small details of 1920s Harlem life. Of interest are the mores of these prohibition years where the ban on alcohol was happily circumvented at Harlem’s hottest jazz clubs - the Savoy, Cotton Club, the Layette Theaters. The story describes the prevalence of interracial contacts, at least on high levels, with some African Americans courting whites to push their various agendas, and wealthy whites engaged in “do good” projects. Others mix in the crowds that flocked to Harlem to hear Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and other big name entertainers of the day.

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