Sugarland is a book set in 1921 shortly after prohibition is instituted. On the music circuit is Eve Riser, a piano player who’s involved with a man named Gavin. In a strange twist of fate, Gavin accidentally kills a man and starts a chain of events that has Eva taking the train back to Chicago clutching a mysterious note and a purse full of cash while Gavin stays behind to cover up the murder.
Upon her return to the city, Eva reunites with her pregnant stepsister and goes back to playing piano in the clubs. Right away though, Eva finds herself tangled up in the unfriendly environment that lives beneath the jazz society she loves. Working together with her sister and a new friend, Eva gets help and support from a few trusted friends while unraveling the mystery behind Gavin’s note and the murders of two other men in their circle.
This book spoke to me through the historical elements it contains and the lively jazz backdrop. Prohibition, the Chicago fire, and the jazz scene were all intertwined in a way that provided a rich imagery to the characters and the plot.
Conway used bits and pieces of history in a way that was both elementary and subtle. This technique added depth to her characters, especially Travis and Moaner. “‘A comet was what hit the earth,’ the fellow with the banjo was saying. ‘That’s what started the Great Fire. Not no cow.’” 28 This dialogue was threaded throughout the novel and stamped these two characters firmly in my mind as I was reading. Though they have only a medium part in the plot, I thought the author’s use of humor and history really set them apart while also being another tool to plant the reader in the era of the story.
In regard to characters, there are several of them in Sugarland. It was challenging to keep them straight. Although they’re all connected in some manner, there were times I felt disconnected from the characters and their stories and this made it difficult to stay in the moments of suspense and mystery. This frustrated me as a reader, but not to the point that I wanted to put the book down.
Like the last Martha Conway book I read, Sugarland tugged me along as I listened to the jazz music and walked alongside Eva in Chicago. While I wouldn’t describe Conway’s writing as “gripping” I’d describe it as the kind of writing you can sink into on any given day. So if you’re looking for a good read with a solid main character, a bit of history, and a great deal of intrigue, I recommend Sugarland. Check out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a copy of Martha Conways, Sugarland!