Jen J. Danna is our guest blogger. As a scientist specializing in infectious diseases, Jen works as part of a dynamic research group at a cutting-edge Canadian university. Her true passion, however, is indulging her love of the mysterious through her writing. Together with her partner Ann Vanderlaan, she crafts suspenseful crime fiction with a realistic scientific edge for Five Star/Cengage. Jen lives near
husband and two daughters, and is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada. Toronto, Ontario
The Killer Days of Prohibition
My writing partner Ann and I love to find an interesting theme around which to base each of our Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. Be it fire, witchcraft or photography, we use the theme as an overarching concept in our storytelling. From our point of view, it makes writing the novel more interesting. But, clearly, readers enjoy it also since that is one of the most noted aspects of our writing in reviews. In TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, the overarching theme is the history of Prohibition that backs the entire case that Matt, Leigh and the team are investigating.
Prohibition was an interesting time in American history, and to this day the Eighteenth Amendment remains the only amendment to the Constitution of the
to be repealed.
Amendment XVIII, ratified in January 1920, was an attempt to shape social
change: because alcohol was seen as the ‘devil’s brew’ and people were
considered too weak to escape its clutches, temperance was federally
legislated. An interesting aspect of that legislation was that it was only
illegal to produce, transport, store, or sell alcohol. Once in a person’s
possession, it was completely legal for individuals to possess and drink it. Amendment
XXI repealed Amendment XVIII more than a decade later. United States
Prohibition was doomed from the start for several reasons. First and foremost, it proved to be impossible to enforce. Not only were the country’s legislators and enforcers—politicians and law enforcement at multiple levels—breaking the law themselves by continuing to imbibe, but the overwhelming majority of people themselves were unhappy with the law, and went to extreme lengths to circumvent it, sometimes at risk to their own lives.
But one of the biggest reasons Prohibition failed was the rise of both the Mob and the black market to fill the hole left by the removal of legal alcohol sales. When demand for the product went underground, so did the supply. Alcohol was brought by boat into ports like
and Boston , or was carried
overland from border countries New York and Canada . Speakeasies—illegal
establishments for the express purpose of selling alcohol—flourished, most run
by the Mob. Some speakeasies were world-class entertainments in major cities
like Mexico or New York , boasting
expensive drinks and elaborate floor shows. Jazz was the music of the day and
many musicians got their start playing in speakeasies. But behind the glitz and
glamour, a war waged between rival mobs and between those same mobs and law
enforcement. Violence skyrocketed as individual mobs fought to corner local markets,
often at the expense of mob and civilian bystanders; gang shootings in the
streets and massacres were not uncommon during the time. Mob bosses rose to
superstardom when they used their amassed riches to open soup kitchens for the
poor during the Depression, further complicating law enforcement’s attempts to
shut them down because they were so well loved by the common man. Chicago
This is the fascinating backdrop of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER—the world of clandestine speakeasies, the mob and dirty politicians:
Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess—short skirts, drinking, dancing . . . and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.
It’s a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives—their deaths separated by over eighty years—the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades. When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realizes that an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.
TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER is out this week and can be found at your favorite booksellers: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, and Barnes and Noble.
Note: Your thoughts and comments are most welcome here.