The Boy in the Red Dress

  • Type: Books
  • By: Kristin Lambert
  • Age Category: Teens
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery & Suspense
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9780593113684
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Murder in Jazz Age New Orleans

Teenaged Millie, who helps manage “The Cloak and Dagger,” her aunt’s New Orleans speakeasy, enjoys the company of those marginalized people who frequent the hopping gin joint.  Bootleggers, gays, poor people, and jazz musicians all find acceptance and entertainment at the Jazz Age club.  But the suspicious death of a society girl threatens to bring it all to a stop when the police investigate and suspicion falls on Marion, the Cloak and Dagger’s drag queen headliner who is also Millie’s best friend.  It’s up to Millie to prove Marion’s innocence and save the business.

This is, first and foremost, a mystery, and Millie’s hands-on investigative style is entertaining.  I was especially amused by the many costumes Millie dons as she stalks New Orleans seeking out the truth: when we first meet her, she’s in a tuxedo, and in the course of the story she sports a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, cat burglar’s camo, a bejeweled evening gown, a high-class waiter’s uniform, and more.  And overall, this book pays above-average attention to fashion, from the elbow patches on Detective Sabatier’s jacket to the fine details of Marion’s red dress.

There are strong romantic elements here as well, both gay and straight.  Millie must navigate her simultaneous crushes on Olive, a waitress at the Cloak and Dagger, and on Bennie, a bootlegger’s son.  As for Marion, one of the reasons he’s a murder suspect is because of a previous romantic entanglement with a girl (though he is now entering into a relationship with jazz pianist Lewis.) 

Readers intrigued by the rich social milieu of this book may want to check out Thaddeus Russell’s “A Renegade History of the United States,”  wherein the author argues that speakeasies, bars, and other shady places were often the most socially inclusive and non-judgmental establishments of the day.  The reader certainly sees that phenomenon in full bloom at Millie’s Cloak and Dagger.