Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'Genteel Spirits', Alice Duncan, July, 2011, Five Star/Cengage

It's the Prohibition Era, 1922, in Pasadena, California, and Daisy Gumm Majesty's spritualist business is in a slump while her major client is out of town. Desdemona is her professional name which she gave herself at age 10. One evening Daisy answers the phone and Gladys Pennywhistle, with whom she had gone to school, is looking for Desdemona, the spiritualist. Daisy is shocked because she remembers Gladys as a very serious person with no sense of humor. Gladys works as secretary for Mrs. Lurlene Winkworth, an elderly southern belle, grandmother of movie star Monty Montgomery; Monty is a close friend of Harold Kincaid, Daisy's best friend. Lurlene wants to book Desdemona for a seance and Daisy accepts, excited at the prospect of meeting Monty and starlet Lola de la Monica who are in town for the filming of a movie at the mansion. Upon her arrival at the mansion for the seance, Harold meets her and tells her he needs her help before she goes to work. Monty has been getting threatening letters and they want Daisy to find the culprit before Monty's career is ruined. After the seance, Lola decides she wants Daisy to be her spiritual guide during the filming of 'The Fire at Sunset'. Daisy takes on the job which becomes more trouble than she ever bargained for; and she becomes more perplexed as additional threatening letters arrive.

In 'Genteel Spirits', Alice Duncan writes Daisy's story with simplicity, directness and no pretentions. Duncan once again produces a commentary of the times touching on social and cultural issues such as the effects of WWI on the average American family; the financial depression after the war; equal pay for working women and homosexuality. Alice Duncan is a sensation at portraying characters with heart, humor and who are genuine. The pleasure in reading Alice's books is meeting up with Daisy and her family and friends again. A truly enjoyable read!

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author.

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