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No Nice Girls: A Sixties Noir Thriller

MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERING. BLACKMAIL. MUSIC ROW. In 1960s Nashville Sherry Russell is the daughter and ex-fiancée of hardnosed newspapermen—“a 35-25-35 blonde, with gams like Marilyn Monroe’s”—part Janet Leigh in Psycho, part January Jones in Mad Men, pinches here and there of Scarlett O’Hara and Lisbeth Salander. After falling from grace as a starched-white-uniform nurse the year The Feminine Mystique rocked America, Sherry is reborn a private detective, cutting her teeth on her own philandering police-reporter fiancé. Then amid big-money fund-raising to build the Country Music Hall of Fame, Sherry is hired to stop, or perhaps fuel, a scandal targeting the sexpot queen of country-western, threatening to squelch forever the Nashville Sound. The case leads from the Grand Ole Opry, to Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau, to sin-city Biloxi, Mississippi—playground of East Coast organized crime, and epicenter of a grisly swath of murder, graft, and corruption by the infamous “Dixie Mafia.” Virginal Sherry gets quickly in over her head on the Biloxi Strip, bounced between competing criminal gangs, and while chivalry in 1965 isn’t quite dead, this detective gets treated like a lady for only so long—down mean streets where “no nice girls” walk—encountering the “only one-armed hit man east of the Mississippi,” and making a blood enemy out of a misogynistic Mafia money man called “Sally Snake Eyes.” This debut Sherry Russell Thriller marches the sub-genre of historical mysteries featuring nurses turned hardboiled PIs—Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs in post-WWI London, Stanley’s Miranda Corbie in circa-1940 San Francisco—firmly into the 1960s South.