It is 1933 and youthful widow Nell Marchand is only too happy to stand in the cool March wind watching her husband’s casket being lowered into the ground. He’d catted around Memphis with women of low repute for years, making a fool out of her. But as the wake comes to an end, the Marchand family attorney informs her that she has lost more than a husband; all her spouse’s money has been lost in the stock market crash. She is now penniless, and responsible for her husband’s mother.
Nell, a former socialite, lacks any useful skills. After miserably failing as a typist and telephone operator, she and her African American servant Hattie decide to do laundry for others. It’s hard work and barely brings in enough to keep them in watery soup. Looking for hope, her mother-in-law takes Nell to see Dr. Joseph Calendar, medium to Memphis society. Nell is dubious, but when Dr. Calendar touches her fingers, a jolt of something like electricity runs up her arm. Dr. Calendar believes Nell is a “sensitive”—an idea she rejects out of hand, although her Welsh grandmother was considered to have the “sight”.
Several weeks later, arms aching from the laundry venture, Nell decides it’s worth a risk. She rents a space and sets herself up as a gypsy Tarot card reader. She’s an immediate success, until a dirt farmer named Luther Evans whose daughter Ginny has gone missing comes to her for help. Until that point, Nell has been offering advice on helping young girls get dates to the prom! This is a whole new ballgame and she is sobered by the stakes. The hunt for Ginny is on.
The author of this delightful story, Jane Sevier, has created the perfect first novel in a presumed series: there are just too many intriguing snippets left hanging at the end of Fortune’s Fool—I was left hanging, too! Will Dr. Calendar’s passion for Nell Marchand be requited? Will we learn more about the death of Nell’s husband? Nell was told he died of a heart attack, but beautiful prostitute Mildred Epps, who was with him that night, says he was shot. Were speakeasy owner Blackjack Kelly and his henchman Little Nick involved? I loved this story and am looking forward to more in the series of plucky psychic socialite Nell Marchand.
Editor’s note: The Psychic Socialite series continues with A Billy Sunday Kind of Love.
Lyn Farquhar is co-author of the “Mae December mysteries”, written with her daughter Lisa Fitzgerald under the pen name Lia Farrell.
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