“Death Be Not Proud” by Suzannah Rowntree

 Ruby Black is a cabaret singer with a lifestyle of cigarettes, hard applejack, and jazz, who pinches pennies from her day job as maid while dreaming of the big time in the opera.

When she’s confronted with a two-year old murder mystery in the person of the victim’s determined fiancé, she gets involved in the dark tale against her better judgement.

This fairytale retelling is perfect for mystery lovers, as chilling suspense combines with a rich writing style.

The description of the mountain lake setting was evocative and absorbing, while the historical setting added interest. I was not aware that New Zealand had ever enacted Prohibition, but I trust Ms. Rowntree to know her stuff.

The mystery was interesting, if a little reliant on the twist. Suffice it to say the narrator lies to us. It’s written in first person, so I won’t say the author lies to us, but the narrator is definitely deceptive.

Agatha Christie got away with this – or should I say, some people think Christie got away with it, while others (ahem – my brother) insist even she couldn’t pull off a deceptive narrator!

For myself, I enjoyed Death‘s experience enough I’ll just reread the story a few more times, to see if I can pick up on hints I missed the first time through.

I didn’t immediately guess which fairytale was being re-cast, but I think I eventually put the pieces together – and the way Ms. Rowntree pulls out elements of the original and reinterprets them for the new story while honoring the conventions of both is clever and inspiring.

In short, a win for lovers of fairytale-reinterpretations, creepy mysteries, and jazzy period stories alike.

Note: I read Death Be Not Proud as part of the Once fairytale retelling collection, which I have yet to review as a whole.

Death Be Not Proud can be found in ebook and paperback forms on Amazon, and also as part of the Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales collection. Novella, approximately 23,000 words.

The author’s website is VintageNovels.com.

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