Category Archives: Historical

Expect Betrayal

MONDAY, JUNE 7, 1943, England

Despite the fogginess of deep sleep, Etta Schnell sensed the hot prick of the energy probe.

She struggled toward awareness as fear danced at the base of her neck and rippled down her spine. A magical nightmare, a foretelling…a warning. Swirling images coalesced in her mind’s eye, bringing clarity. Something evil was stalking her and sought to rip the family grimoire from her care-taker hands. Her heartbeat increased, and her breath took on the nature of a pant.

The Book of Cures is in danger.

Because of decades of precognitive experiences, Etta intuitively recognized the probe’s source—Hitler, and his occult minions. The family grimoire contained hundreds of years of occult recipes for protections against malicious spells. The Nazis coveted The Book. They would surely corrupt the grimoire to bolster their twisted ambitions for the Third Reich. In the wrong hands, the spells could be turned from Good to Evil and reborn as powerful curses.

Her one ray of hope was that—in the magical nightmare—the American flag also chased the grimoire.

~excerpt from the Prologue

In the third Operation Delphi volume, Expect Betrayal, intrepid Lt. Olivia “Livvy” Delacourt, facility manager of The Watch’s Philadelphia headquarters, and her superior officer, the handsome Commander Barrington “Trey” Drew, III, are on assignment in England to retrieve Livvy’s family grimoire—a centuries old spell book in the sights of Hitler’s Der Mumm. Operation Delphi is certain information in the The Book could help the U.S.A. combat stateside mind control  emanating from Hitler’s occult group.

Almost from the moment Livvy  and Trey land at RAF Lakenheath Airfield, Livvy is aware of strange forces. They are met at the plane by Brick Kensington, Trey’s college buddy, currently in England to set up USO troop entertainment. She’d met him before and found him too smooth for her taste. He is hard to read and she dismisses her uneasiness around him as the effects of the long trans-Atlantic flight. Anyway, she has a job to do and it doesn’t include socializing with Trey’s Old Buddy. She needs to find her Aunt Etta and the grimoire before it’s too late, and she needs some sleep before she and Trey set out in the morning. Trey, on the other hand, makes a date with Brick for a play and drinks afterward. It’s over nightcaps the betrayal begins: Brick insists Trey carry his “lucky penny” to keep him safe—and to keep his whereabouts known to Brick. The two headed penny is really Brick’s enchanted tracking tool and Brick is a traitor.

In the morning, Brick shows up to drive Livvy and Trey to the aunt’s last known address. They can’t seem to shake him. Brick tests his psychic abilities on Livvy in hopes of keeping her from finding The Book. He plans to get his hands on it and arrange transportation to Germany on a U-boat. He’s going to buy himself entree into Hitler’s inner circle with the grimoire, but the aunt has disappeared. The chase begins. Brick sends assassins after the Americans, as they hunt for Aunt Etta, criss-crossing England following leads and addresses in Aunt Etta’s address book Livvy finds at there abandoned home. Several asassination attempts are thwarted, but the assassin gets away with the address book, aiding Brick in his chase.

After dead ends, and deadly encounters, Livvy finds a contact able to tell her what is on the missing “K” page and they and David, a psychic from the British counterpart of Operation Delphi, head toward the grimoire, danger following on their heels. But danger doesn’t put this duo off, it brings them together and Livvy’s romantic high school dream might turn into reality—after the war. First they have to beat the Nazi’s to Aunt Etta’s hiding place.

I’m not a sceptic. Read my post from June 2016 on volume two of the series, Expect Deception. According to author, JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, there really was a top-secret U.S. military branch comprised of psychics during World War II. I said it before, and I’m sticking to my story: Ainsworth certainly makes the job of psychic sound exciting, and for readers of WWII novels, she gives a riveting story of espionage and treachery set in an era of polite national determination. Volume three is even better. Some of the “polite” is tossed aside for the cause. And Livvy is more determined than ever. Although she’s never met her English family, this is her blood, and she’s wearing the key to the grimoire around her neck — a  gift  from her mother before her death. The operation is personal.

Ainsworth has again studiously researched her topic. The attention to detail and setting placed me right into 1943, but instead of being filled with wartime zeal, as I was with volume two, I felt the fear, strain, and exhaustion of the characters. People get injured or worse during war. Stakes are high. A manic quality imbues the more innocent and proper times. Livvy is willing to compromise her reputation to her orders — the mission cannot fail — and perhaps to a bit of: live today for tomorrow we may die.

In straightforward language, with well chosen details and not a trace of sentimentalism (okay, Livvy and Trey have soft spots for each other, but they’ve been friends since childhood) Ainsworth develops a suspense filled, historically steeped race against time and evil. The houses have been bombed. People are gone. The trains are delayed for troop movement, petrol is hard to come by, buses run late, phone booths are hard to find. Trey takes a larger role in volume three as he is assigned to lead the operation and protect Livvy. We get to know him better. He’s not a believer in the occult and he has a jealous streak. He also cares for his aide de camp, Livvy, and will do what it takes for a successful operation. Trey’s character is illuminated through the character of Brick, his “Old Buddy.” Trey is everything Brick is not. Brick is smarmy, greedy, deluded and small. He’s betraying his country and his own friend because he fantasizes he’s going to become powerful at the right hand of Hitler. Brick lacks the qualities of a winner, and whether or not he grabs the grimoire, he’ll always be a whiny con man, blaming his failures on someone else. You know the type.

The battle against evil has changed Livvy. She’s less innocent, more self actualized, stronger, yet more relaxed in her role. She yearns for a bath and clean, pressed clothes, but she takes charge with competence and compassion.  She has the eye and action of a pragmatist; theres no time for dithering or dissembling. When Trey is injured, she rips up her own clothes to staunch the blood. When evil looks her in the eye, she stares it down. I can’t wait to see what Livvy does in volume four. If the books were set now, she’d run for president. Livvy Delacourt would get my vote.

 

Congratulations to JoAnn Smith Ainsworth on Volume Three of the Operation Delphi series, Expect Betrayal. It’s coming out on April 18th and  is currently available for pre-order at Books2Read.com

About JoAnn

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced WWII food rationing, Victory Gardens, and blackout sirens as a child. She lived in Philadelphia during the ’50s and she attended the Berkeley Psychic Institute in the late ’70s. She is the author of six published novels: Expect Trouble, Book 1 and Expect Deception, Book 2 of the Operation Delphi series; two historical western romances released from Whiskey Creek Press; and two medieval romantic suspense novels released from Samhain Publishing, Ltd. Ainsworth lives in California.
JoAnn says this about her characters: Fighting may be necessary. My characters fight against Nazi spies, social prejudice, and other worldly events to preserve what they hold most dear.
To learn more about this award winning author, visit http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com.

“The impetus behind my writings lies in a desire to illustrate through the lives of my characters that small moments of courage are all it takes to attain what we seek from life.” ~JOANN SMITH AINSWORTH

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Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper

 

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Fanny Newcomb, the plucky heroine of Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper, is a woman ahead of her age and from the first sentence, I knew Fanny was my kind of girl.

shoppingThe story opens on a Friday in April, 1889. Fanny is battling with a Hammond typewriting machine and “all hell would break loose” if she hadn’t mastered it by the time her typing students arrived the following Wednesday. Fanny had managed her Father’s law office for a decade but she’d never seen a typewriter before, something she’d failed to mention to her employer, Sylvia Giddings, Principal and Founder of Wisdom Hall Settlement House, at the interview. When her father died, Fanny lost her livelihood, failed as a lady’s companion and run out of resources. The school, located in the impoverished Irish district of New Orleans, offered business classes to the local women and appealed to Fanny’s sense of justice. And besides, teaching was better than marrying and being relegated to home, hearth and afternoon tea with New Orleans society ladies. A life without meaningful work is anathema to Fanny.

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Hull House

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Fanny is distracted by the incessant ringing of the infirmary bell and rushes to find twelve-year-old Liam who delivers the news: Dr. Olive Giddings, Sylvia’s sister, is needed at Connor’s Court because someone has been murdered. The women race to the scene and find Nora, Fanny’s star business student, strangled and meet Charity Hospital’s ambulance driver, a doctor whose manner horrifies Olive. As the crowd gathers, rumors start and soon the cry goes out, “Jesus! Joseph and Mary! It’s Jack the Ripper! Here in New Orleans!” The morning edition of the Daily Picayune echoes the crowd at the scene, reporting the woman has had her throat cut. The police don’t think it’s Jack the Ripper and come to Wisdom Hall Settlement House to arrest Sylvia’s carpenter, Karl, for the murder. Fanny knows Karl was working at the school at the time of the murder, added incentive to investigate the crime. She enlists Sylvia and Olive, Liam, beau Lawrence Decatur, tabloid journalist Clarence Holloway and even N.O. Police detective Daniel Crenshaw to help her identify the killer, free Karl and bring Nora the justice she deserves.

 

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Unknown-6Fanny’s investigation reveals more than a murderer. It takes readers through the colorful underbelly of New Orleans’s slums, saloons, prostitution and houses of prostitution. Revealed are the gulfs between the “haves” and “have nots”, the deep prejudices the Irish and German immigrants held for each other and the ingrained racism of white against black, regardless of social standing. Revealed is the rigid class system, hatred of immigrants, lack of concern for the poor and the blatant systems keeping them from rising in station.

 

The story is a fascinating look into the Gilded Age’s society, its hierarchies and mores. Women were at the bottom and unmarried women the lowest. Fanny questions her own motives and place in the world. Should she marry? Should she strive for independence? Fanny, Sylvia and Olive are spinsters and meddling in men’s work: schools, medicine, investigations. Society thwarts them at every turn. They are shunned, ridiculed, patronized and harangued by a priest as “bad women” on par with prostitutes for being unmarried and working, and like prostitutes, deserving of horrific deaths. In this intolerant and compassionless climate, it’s no wonder a wave of terror overtakes the city. Fanny, Sylvia and Olive want to exonerate Karl, but more, they fight the battle against ignorance and oppression for poor women and for their society as a whole. They are early social justice crusaders patterned after British Beatrice Webb, Americans Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star, and Progressive Era pioneers Eleanor McMain, Eliza Nicholson and Sara Mayo.

At the end, Daniel Crenshaw is lauded as the hero to solve the case although it couldn’t have been done without Fanny and the Giddings sisters. Fanny understood that “Certainly, no one would have believed that Fanny, Sylvia, and Olive could have interjected themselves into a grisly murder, studied pornography, or visited a whorehouse and a prison. No lady could have attempted any of those social offences.”

Although author Ana Brazil’s historical detail is well researched and rich, at no time does her writing become didactic or does history drown-out the suspense and intrigue. Fanny is a risk taker and has a gift for theft. She manages to steal important documents that help her win the respect of her allies and solve the case. Between the three women of Wisdom Hall Settlement House, they bring most of the resources they need—Fanny’s clever, intelligent mind and legal training, Olive’s deep knowledge of the human body and medicine, and Sylvia’s connections and social standing—to solve the case. Each has something to offer, but it’s Fanny who has the mental acuity to see the patterns and put them together, leading her into extreme dangers. My pulse pounded during the story’s harrowing climax (no spoilers!)

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At the end, Brazil leaves readers with hope that there will be another Fanny Newcomb book. “But Fanny Newcomb also knew that she was not finished with investigating or questioning or detecting. And that she would look for any opportunity to seek out justice again. . . .” And what was that frisson I noticed between Fanny and Daniel Crenshaw? I can’t wait for the next adventure to see if Fanny will cave to societal expectations or forge ahead doing what she loves.

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anapat_1505963276_75I want to wish Ana Brazil hearty congratulations on the publication of her first historical novel. It’s a fun, fast, informative, can’t-put-it-down read for anyone who loves New Orleans, the Gilded Age, strong women protagonists, mysteries and the Southern writing tradition. I love them all!

For a photographic exploration of Fanny’s time visit Ana’s Pinterest Board: Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper

 

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Filed under Historical, Mystery, Reviews