Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Fruitcake Murders by Ace Collins

I grew up reading the 1940s style detective mysteries so reading this book was an experience in nostalgia. Collins has done a good job of recreating postwar Chicago with its gangsters, a crack newspaper reporter, a romantic private investigator and a police detective struggling with his war memories.

The plot is a little complex, involving a murder committed twenty years ago. We know from the outset that the wrong man was arrested for that murder. Now, years later, three men are killed and the murder weapons are fruitcakes in cans heavy enough to crack a skull with a deadly blow. The mystery that needs to be unraveled is how the old fruitcakes, made by the company owned by the wrongfully accused killer of twenty years ago, tie the three men together and sealed their fate.

The strength of this novel is the historical setting. Collins is a master at witty dialog and exact descriptions of historical places and events. The feel of the novel is really that of authors of the 1940s. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I felt like I was reading a classic detective novel from years ago.

I loved the characters. Tiffany is a crack newspaper reporter. She has a nose for getting the facts. Her relationship with Lane, the police detective is a riot. Their dialog is classic. Collins brings in a private detective, an old war buddy of Lane's, who has eyes for Tiffany, challenging Lane's unspoken but deeply felt affection for her. That little bit of a relationship triangle brought added interest to the plot.

I did feel the plot was a little too complex. It takes a lengthy explanation to tie all the murder victims together. I would have liked to see something a little more straight forward without so many hidden elements. Granted, they are all revealed in the end but many of the necessary facts are hidden from readers so we don't have the challenge and joy of trying to uncover the mystery ourselves.

One of the issues of the novel is a person wrongly convicted of a crime and ultimately executed for it. The discussion guide at the end helps readers think through that event.

I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to those who like the 1940s style detective mystery.

You can read more about the novel, and other interesting features here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ace Collins is the 2015 Christy Award winner for suspense and has received numerous other awards as well. He has written over seventy books with more than 2.5 million in print. He is also a sports broadcaster. He and his wife have two sons and live in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. You can find out more about him and his books at

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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