New York City in 1922 saw showpeople like Fanny Brice and Harry Houdini rubbing shoulders with confidence men and bootleggers like Arnold Rothstein, the gambler reputed to have fixed the 1919 World Series. Henrietta Fine, a precocious sixteen-year-old apprentice locksmith, weaves in and out of this world, living by her wits and the double-cross. Her safe cracking skills make her useful to both Houdini and to the wily Rothstein, who provides cover for her after the police implicate her in a diamond heist. Her picaresque adventures take her from the woods of New Jersey, whose secret Indian trails afford escape from red-baiting anti-semitic mobs, to the coves of Long Island, where she becomes a companion of a doomed bootlegger. Drawn with exquisite detail and told in a voice- Henrietta’s-that recalls the stylish gossip (or “Chin Music”) of the Flapper, Paul Levitt’s debut novel will entertain readers with its uncanny evocation of an era when the gangster held a place of celebrity and a teen-age girl could be his unwitting- or outwitting-collaborator.
Besides the strong characters, Levitt’s uncanny evocation of time and place is impressive.—The Daily Camera – Alex Gouldner