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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

New York Nocturne

Walter Satterthwait

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To purchase New York Nocturne

Title: New York Nocturne
Author: Walter Satterthwait
Genre: Novel
Written: (2006) (Eng. rev. 2016)
Length: 287 pages
Availability: New York Nocturne - US
New York Nocturne - UK
New York Nocturne - Canada
Miss Lizzie kehrt zurück - Deutschland
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • The Return of Miss Lizzie
  • A sequel to Miss Lizzie
  • New York Nocturne was originally published in a German translation in 2006, as Miss Lizzie kehrt zurück; it was first published in English in a revised version in 2016.

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable novel of 1920s New York City

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 4/4/2016 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The novel’s assured and witty voice holds its disparate elements together, and Satterthwait deftly captures the verve of the Prohibition era as well as its unsavory edges." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Walter Satterthwait's 1989 novel featuring Lizzie Borden, Miss Lizzie, was conceived as a stand-alone; indeed, the author seems to have wanted to make so sure that it would remain a one-off that near the conclusion he has his young narrator, Amanda Burton, state that she never again met Borden. Eventually, however, the two main characters of that novel must have proved too tempting, and so this volume opens with a note explaining:

Readers of my earlier recollection, Miss Lizzie, will perhaps recollect that at the end of the volume, I stated that I never again met with the person who served as the book's main character. This statement was not entirely true. It was, in fact, a bald-faced lie, one for which I now offer this volume as a kind of apology. The reason for the lie will, I believe, become obvious.
       Whatever the excuses, it's nice to see young Amanda -- now, in the summer of 1924, when the action takes place, sixteen years old -- and Lizzie Borden playing amateur detectives again -- even if, as in the previous volume, the reasons are disturbing, yet another brutal murder that hits far too close to home.
       The summer starts out well enough for Amanda: her father and stepmother are off to Tibet and while older brother William remains in Boston she gets to go to New York, to spend the summer with her father's younger brother, John, who has an apartment in the Dakota off Central Park. John knows all the in-spots and the places to go, and Amanda has a great time -- for a few days. Then, on a Friday night, they start the evening at a speakeasy in the Village, and wind up at the Cotton Club in Harlem -- but John cuts the evening short, saying he isn't feeling well, and they head home. When Amanda gets up in the morning all is quiet -- and she find her uncle sitting, dead, with a hatchet in his skull.
       The police quickly pick on her as the obvious suspect -- her history doesn't help -- and certainly seem to want to pin it on her -- but then Lizzie Borden comes to the rescue, sending in a competent lawyer, Morrie Lipkind, and taking her under her wing again.
       Lizzie Borden is, conveniently, staying at the Algonquin Hotel -- and has made a new friend there, Dorothy Parker, who quips along for much that follows. (A dangerous game Satterthwait plays there, since Parker was so known for her wit, but he manages her reasonably well.) Along with the help of Lipkind and a "snooper" he recommends, the short and completely hairless Carl Liebowitz, and chauffeur cum bodyguard Roger, Amanda and Lizzie investigate, retracing Amanda and John's last night and the people John confronted along the way.
       Beside the club owners, there's Daphne Dale, John's one-time lover, who wrote a terrible roman à clef in which John appears, thinly disguised. There's also John's suspiciously almost entirely emptied safe, and the question of who knew about it.
       The club owners have shady pasts (and presents), and John clearly had some secrets himself. When others turn up dead, it's clear that Amanda, too, is in danger -- but the formidable Lizzie is determined -- also at Amanda's behest -- to get to the bottom of things. The very bottom would seem to be yet another real-life figure, the notorious Arnold Rothstein -- famous for, among other things, being behind the fixing of the 1919 (baseball) World Series.
       Satterthwait weaves an entertaining enough novel against the backdrop of New York City in 1924 during the Prohibition years and some of the major actors in city-life at the time. (Mae West also plays a small role.) It's set up neatly enough -- not least with Lizzie's dexterity with cards, which she also taught Amanda -- coming to play a role, and some nice historical curiosities tied in, like their visit to a Harlem 'rent party'. Satterthwait packs quite a lot in, but with a soft touch, and he doesn't stuff too many well-known names into the story -- though Dorothy Parker's presence can, at time, feel forced -- and Rothstein (and John's involvement with him) are cleverly and well-developed.
       Satterthwait writes well -- though, again, having Parker play a role proves something of a distraction and challenge -- and the story unfolds and moves along breezily and well. It's nothing exceptional, but it is solid and good entertainment, and certainly good pass-time reading fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 February 2023

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New York Nocturne: Reviews: Walter Satterthwait: Other books by Walter Satterthwait under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Walter Satterthwait lived 1946 to 2020.

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© 2023 the complete review

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