then murder’s out of tune, And sweet revenge grows harsh. – William Shakespeare
The stylized atmosphere of L.A. Witt’s novella Mayfield Speakeasy most definitely lends itself to that noir-ish feel of Hollywood’s classic crime dramas, with rival gangsters, and hardboiled detectives, and femme fatales, and the bartender who “don’t want no trouble”; he just wants to dispense a little illegal entertainment of the liquid variety to his rather shady clientele.
Set in the waning years of the Prohibition, Walter Mayfield is the proprietor of the illicit club that’s become neutral turf for the Abandanato and O’Reilly gangs, a place the flatfoots generally overlook because when the goons are drinking, they ain’t out on the streets conducting their special brand of misery business, if you catch my meaning. Walter runs the place with his brothers, John, a generally law abiding citizen, and Billy, the black sheep of the family who’s felt the chokehold of the long arm of the law on more than a few occasions. But Walter hasn’t seen much in the way of trouble, really, until Detective Joe Riordan and his partner, Danny, belly up to his bar and serve up what amounts to a whole lot of trouble for Walter.
Seems there’s someone with a special kind of love for killing women who each have a common thread that links them all back to John Mayfield—husband, father…guy who can’t seem to keep it in his pants. Joe’s on the case, doing everything within his power to keep another murder from happening, and Walter’s the very man Joe needs. Eventually, in more ways than one.
A murder mystery with plenty of the usual suspects, wrapped around more than one illicit love affair, all set in the 1930s, where crimes of passion pit brother against brother and tear a family apart, a time when a crime of passion meant nothing more than two men falling in love. I can’t decide which I liked more: the relationship part of the story, or the criminal investigation that sparked it. Whichever it is, L.A. Witt has offered a gritty little erotic drama that made me glad a nice girl like me got to hang out in a place like that for just a little while.