Created by Emily J. Edwards
“I’ve been a Girl Friday for the best P.I. in the city for years, ya moron… You think I didn’t learn a thing or two?”
Rough-and-tumble Tommy Fortuna is allegedly the best private eye in 1950s New York City, but it turns out VIVIANA VALENTINE, his spunky, long-time “Girl Friday” (her words, not mine) is no slouch either, when it comes to sticking her nose into other people’s business.
But it’s her business when Tommy goes missing, we discover in the rollicking series debut, Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man (2022), and it gets really personal when she finds a stiff in their Hell’s Kitchen office the next day, an obvious victim of foul play, and Tommy’s still nowhere to be seen. The cops, lead by Detective Jake Lawson, like Tommy for the killing, but Viviana doesn’t buy it.
Convinced Tommy is innocent and will turn up eventually, Viviana decides to keep things running, taking over the Blackstone job—the last case Tommy was working. And she does it with sass and grit and surprising savvy, and as narrator she lays on the snappy patter like she’s Philip Marlowe and Doris Day’s Noo Yawk-raised love child. You can almost hear the gum being snapped.
She likes horse radish “hot enough to melt a car bumper” and Tommy suggests that men eye a potential woman “like a tasty mackerel,” and there’s plenty of pre-#metoo inter-office slap-and-tickle between the two (he calls Viviana “Dollface,” she thinks “the man eats his Wheaties”) to remind us we’re back in the fifties, when men were men and women, well, they just weren’t.
Although apparently Viviana didn’t get that memo…
- “Meet Viviana Valentine, a secretary in New York City in 1950. She’s forced to turn PI herself when her boss disappears… The summer is hot, muggy, and smelly, and Viviana observes all the people who keep the city turning in the summer while the wealthy leave town. The first Girl Friday mystery marks a historical series to watch.”
—Lisa’s Book Criques
- “(This) sprightly debut by Emily J. Edwards, is an ode to a certain type of girl-detective novel (such as the works of Mabel Seeley and Mignon G. Eberhart, as well as an underrated early Dorothy B. Hughes effort, “The Cross-Eyed Bear”) that was published plentifully in the years before and after World War II… Edwards writes with flair, leaning into snappy dialogue, making it easy to speed past occasional plot holes and pesky anachronisms.
— Sarah Weinman (November 2022, The New York Times Book Review)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.