Murder for the Modern Girl / Kendall Kulper / Book Review

Who can track down a mindreading murderess? Only a shapeshifting mortician turned detective. 

Ruby Newhouse is the daughter of the state's attorney, and she knows all too well how many bad men have gone free--especially when the only voices speaking against them are women and children. Ruby plans to change that, but it will be awhile until she can make it into law school and, eventually, stand in court herself. Until then, she's got another solution: vigilante work. Ruby isn't afraid to get her hands a little dirty--well, not too dirty. She prefers poison to knifework. And she only takes out those who are past the point of forgiveness. She's very selective, and she always gets it right: that's the benefit of being a mind-reader, after all. 

Ruby's gotten away with her bloody undercover life for years, but that might all change. There's a new mortician in town--well, a shapeshifter who wants to be a mortician, anyway--and he's got keener eyes than anyone who came before him. Guy doesn't take things at face value, and as more bodies come his way, he starts to suspect there might be a very special type of murderer loose in the city--a murderer with a secret to hide as big as his own, something supernatural. 


This book was fun, funny, and somehow still missing the sort of spark needed to really make it great. The historical worldbuilding is atmospheric. The characters--especially Ruby--are campy in the best way possible. Many people will, undoubtedly, fall in love with this book. It just didn't stand out to me. Not particularly. 


  • Malapropisms: You know what I just can't resist in a character? Malapropisms. I love when characters, like real people, fumble with well-known words and phrases. I especially love when characters just embrace these phrases like absolutely nothing is amiss (we all know somebody like that, right? Just so confident in their own lack of correctness). Ruby is a smooth-talking and confident character who embraces some words that just aren't right, and I love that. It helps to make her character shine. 
  • Campy Historical: There's something so fun about a book that embraces its extra-ness, and this book works even better for being set in such a glitzy sort of city in such an iconic era of American history. The glamorous parties, the speak-easy lifestyle, the moonshine and a side of murder--this book has all the historical trappings to make it fun while adding a level of camp usually reserved for steampunk. 
  • Grisly Consequences: As fun and silly as this book's concept might be, it doesn't steer entirely away from the consequences. Books that feature a lady murderess are usually very nonchalant about the consequences--perhaps a perpetual threat over the villainess's head but never actually coming to fruition. Here, in this world of gangsters and bloody crime, there are some truly grisly consequences for those entangled in criminal proceedings, and that helps to set this book apart and give its campiness a level of reality.


  • Exceptionally Incredible Detective: It seems like such a huge coincidence that the shapeshifter wanna-be mortician (who wants to be a mortician only so he can figure out his shapeshifting abilities) would also be so observant--more observant than anyone else in the morgue. That this man, who has no real passion for morgue work, would be such a good crime scene detective is purely coincidental, but it feels too convenient. It makes sense for Ruby to be good at what she does, to some extent. She was trained by her lawyer father, after all, and she can read minds. But to have Guy be such a prodigy, too? It's too much. 
  • Slang Heavy: I know this was used for the sake of era-immersion, but Ruby's abundant slang was too strong. Immerse me in the period, sure, but don't hit me over the head with it! I felt mildly concussed by the end of the first Ruby chapter, I'll admit. It's heavy-handed. 
  • Loudmouth Plot Hole: The one thing, the one thing, that I had a hard time believing in this book was the tattle-taling. I could suspend my disbelief with everything else--even with the hyper-coincidence that was Guy's detective skills--but why would these women who love and appreciate their "angel" murderess so much go and tell on her? She's rescuing them from abusers. They pray to her. Why would any of them tell detectives about her? I just don't get it. Guy needed to know about the "angel" somehow, of course, but was this the best we could do? I don't buy it. It makes no sense. 



Anyone looking for a magical twist on a familiar time period after Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan should check out this mind-reading flapper. Those who enjoy a bit of blood and guts in their campy historical fantasy like the grisly world of Elizabeth May's The Falconer will like this new book of gangsters and murderesses.  


Publisher: Holiday House
Date: May 24, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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