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Sister and brother Lily and Robert Brewster may not have a penny to their names, but at least they're in good company––times couldn't be tougher in the Hudson River Valley during the Great Depression, and even the much–revered Chief of Police has lost his home. Their poor town has been stripped of its Post Office, too; now mail gets dumped off the trains steaming up the Hudson River, and people have to rummage through the bags to find their letters and packages. When Robert helps a young widow and her ...
Sister and brother Lily and Robert Brewster may not have a penny to their names, but at least they're in good company––times couldn't be tougher in the Hudson River Valley during the Great Depression, and even the much–revered Chief of Police has lost his home. Their poor town has been stripped of its Post Office, too; now mail gets dumped off the trains steaming up the Hudson River, and people have to rummage through the bags to find their letters and packages. When Robert helps a young widow and her newly–arrived German grandfather haul the old man's trunks to his granddaughter's shop, he thinks he may have found a new set of friends––especially the kind train porter who helps them out. But when a red swastika is found painted on the widow's shop window, and the train porter is found dead, Robert knows that something much deeper, and much darker, is happening in his sleepy little town. Even back at Grace & Favor Mansion, where Lily and Robert live, things are falling apart. The Chief of Police has just unearthed a very, very old skeleton––right on the grounds! Could the two murders be related? It's up to Lily and Robert to find out the truth, before their quiet community is town apart by hatred, secrets, and a killer who may have set his sights on Grace & Favor...
Robert Brewster was waiting around the train station in Voorburg-on-Hudson for a box of books he'd ordered for his sister Lily's next birthday. A week ago, he'd sneaked away to New York City with a list the comely town librarian had given him. Miss Philomena Exley knew Lily's reading habits and favorite authors. He'd been told that two of the author choices she'd enjoyed had new books coming out the end of the week if he'd care to wait for just one package to be shipped by train to Voorburg.
Since he was doing this much earlier than necessary, which was not the way he normally treated birthdays, Robert didn't mind. Mostly, he frantically picked up some silly trinket at the last minute, and offered to pay Lily's way to a talkie. But getting to speak at length with Miss Exley was a rare treat.
Since there was no longer a post office in Voorburg because it burned down years ago, the incoming mail and packages were in bags at the train station and the residents had to rummage through the bags to fish out what they'd received.
There was a porter who hung around the station, helping with luggage and living on the tips, which must have been meager in these hard times. Edwin McBride had been at the Bonus March and heard Jack Summer, the editor of the Voorburg Times, talk about Voorburg. It had sounded like a nice town so he'd settled there. "A box for you, Mr. Brewster," McBride said. "Really heavy."
Robert tipped him fifty cents, which was probably more than McBride normally made in a week, and set the box down on a bench, to figure out where to hide it from Lily. As he was doing so, a familiar Voorburg resident stepped off the last car, which was for passengers. She was Sara Smithson, a young widow who had inherited a lot of rental property from her husband. She looked exhausted as she gestured for Mr. McBride to help her with her enormous suitcase, then a large trunk. The trunk was followed by an older man, who needed help down the steep steps.
Robert approached her. "May I help you and this gentleman?"
"Oh, Mr. Brewster, how nice of you. It's been such a long hard trip."
"From where?" Robert asked, not that it was any of his business.
She didn't mind telling him. "Clear from Berlin, Germany."
She pushed back her hair, which was straggling loose from under her hat.
"I went to fetch my grandfather." She put her hand on the old man's arm and glanced at Robert. "This nice man, Mr. Brewster, is going to help us with our belongings."
The old man took Robert's hand, and introduced himself. "Schneidermeister Kurtz."
"Grandpa, say it in English," Mrs. Smithson said with a hint of irritation. "I've told you not many people here know German."
He patted his granddaughter's arm and with a smile, said, "Yes, you have, sweeting. I'm Master Tailor Kurtz. My granddaughter came to rescue me from the Nazis." Robert was surprised at how well the old man spoke English. Only the faintest hint of German accent.
"Are you Jewish, then?" Robert asked.
"No, Catholic," he said. "But once I went with a friend to a Communist meeting. We all had to sign our names and addresses in a ledger so we'd get a notice of the time and place of the next meeting. The Nazis hate Communists as much as Jews. I feared someone would turn me in if they found the ledger."
It took both Robert and McBride to thrust Mr. Kurtz's trunk and Mrs. Smithson's big suitcase into the back of Robert's butter-yellow Duesenberg.
"What a fine car this is," Mr. Kurtz said. "You must be very wealthy to have one."
"Grandpa! That's rude," Mrs. Smithson said.
"I don't mind at all," Robert said. "I inherited it from a great-uncle I didn't even remember. My sister and I are as poor as everyone else in town. Mrs. Smithson, where am I taking you and your grandfather?"
"I live next door to Miss Jurgen. Do you know her house?"
"I do. My sister Lily takes sewing lessons from her."
"I know. I take lessons at the same time she does. But it's not sewing. It's graphing patterns for embroidery and needlepoint. But we need to drop off Grandpa's trunk first."
"That little empty shop across from the courthouse that used to be a bookstore before the tenant and his family took off for California. My late husband owned it."
Robert pulled up in front of the building and said, "We're going to have to have some help with this trunk. Your grandfather can't endanger his hands or back trying to carry it. It's very heavy. I'll go and see if the newspaper editor, Jack Summer, can help me."
"I hate putting so many people to all this trouble."
"It's no trouble at all. And you can do me a favor. Hide this box of books in your house until my sister's birthday, if you would."
"Small payment for all you've done," she said, fishing in her handbag for the keys to the building.
Robert and Jack were back in minutes. "How can a trunk be so darned heavy?" Jack asked.
"Mr. Kurtz is a tailor," Robert explained. "A Master Tailor, in fact. He must have his sewing machine and all his shears, scissors, and threads in it. Probably lots of fabrics as well."
They were both out of breath by the time they'd hoisted it up the two steps to the shop. They could hear voices from the floor above, where there were probably living quarters.
"In English, Grandpa," came Mrs. Smithson's voice.
"But you know German, too."
"Not very well, Grandpa, and I don't speak it anymore. You shouldn't either. German speakers aren't very well liked in America these days."
Excerpted from Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill Copyright © 2005 by Jill Churchill. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted November 8, 2005
Set in April and May of 1933. Siblings Lily and Robert Brewster live in the Hudson Valley. The Depression is making life hard for everyone. Lily and Robert reside at the Grace & Favor Cottage. They take in boarders for a bit of income. Their newest boarder is Voorburg's chief of police, Howard Walker. Chief Walker has a new deputy too, Ron Parker. (Deputy Parker helped out in a previous mystery.) .................... The poor town lost its post office a few years ago. The town's mail in now dumped at the train station for people to rummage through until they find all their letters and packages. When Robert sees two women snooping over mail belonging to others, and even discussing destroying one before it could reach its addressee, he begins a petition to have an unofficial post office made. In fact, the train porter has already agreed to be the unofficial postman if it gets approved by the town council. ................... Robert would not have overheard the women if he had not been at the train station awaiting the arrival of his own package. While there, Robert helps the young widow Sara Smithson and her grandfather, Master Tailor Kurtz, haul their trunks home. Mr. Kurtz was born in America, but spent many years living in Germany. (Sara rescued her grandfather from the Nazis just in time!) However, someone does not like the newcomer and is out to get rid of Mr. Kurtz, permanently. At the same time, the train porter is murdered. Chief Walker has to locate a killer, as well as find out who has it in for Voorburg's new tailor. But wait, there is even more going on in this normally sleepy town. As the Harbinger boys remove some shrubs at Grace & Favor for the Brewsters, a very old skeleton is unearthed! ................ **** After reading a few novels from this mystery series, I feel as though I actually know the locals of Voorburg. Without even realizing it, I have learned a lot about life during the Depression. Forensic and Crime labs were not as well equipped and it is exciting to see how the law enforcements made do. As for readers who actually lived through the Depression, this entire series is so exact and well written that I would not be surprised to find that every novel gets a place of honor on their 'Keeper' shelf. ............... Author Jill Churchill has a rare talent that allows Voorburg and its inhabitants to seem real. Each character has his/her own personality and quirks. This latest installment of the series is well worth your time and money. As usual, I eagerly await the next story. ****
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Posted December 9, 2008
In 1933 Hudson Valley, New York, the Great Depression has wrecked havoc on everyone symbolized by the loss of the post office residents look through the mail sacks to pick up whatever is theirs. --- Robert Brewster arrives at the station to get his mail and that of his sister Lily. Before picking up his letters, Robert and a porter help a young widow and her grandfather with their luggage. He returns to get his correspondence only to find an elderly woman sifting through the mail threatening to destroy it. He seeks the porter but finds the man dead. Not long afterward someone paints a red swastika on the shop window of the elderly newcomer. Robert worries that evil has invaded his impoverished town. Adding to his apprehension is back at the mansion of Grace and Favor, where he and Lily live, the Harbinger brothers uncovered a skeleton. Robert and Lily investigate seeking a link between two potential homicides and the defacing, but soon fear that the target is their hosts Grace and Favor. --- This is more a historical tale than a mystery even though the amateur sleuths investigate the homicides and the hate crime. Fans will appreciate this fine entry in the Grace and Favor series. The story line brings vividly to life the bygone era of survival in small town New York during a bad economic period with specific examples like the revered employed police chief unable to pay his mortgage and losing his home. The inquiries are fun to follow as the siblings seek a link between murder past and crimes today, but that takes a back row seat to the deep insightful glimpse at the Great Depression. --- Harriet Klausner
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Posted July 17, 2012
Forced myself to finish Jill Churchill's 6th Grace & Favor novel. "Who's Sorry Now?" turned out to be ME, after seeing a series I really enjoyed ultimately reduced to this level.
I've grown very fond of the characters & the town, but the main protagonists weren't even present for the last few chapters, when the culprit in two predictably connected story threads (obvious to me for one of them from very early on) finally is identified and apprehended. Long, repetitive, boring interludes detailing the minutae of building & opening a letter-sorting center, for crying out loud! Chapter after chapter of empty filler that I kept hoping would contain some cleverly camouflaged detail pertinent to the mystery, but was just there to prop up the page count for publication, it seemed. Sloppy, inconsistent storytelling, even to the level of changing a minor -- and unnecessary, by the way -- character's last name midstream (although by then I should have been too mind-numbed to notice) and an ending that seemed tacked on, cut short, and as rushed-to-type as a term paper during finals week. An inexcusable absence of editing or even competent proofreading. Colossal disappointment.
Lambasted on Amazon, and rightly so. (Except by H.K., who predictably gave it five stars, evidently without reading it, citing plot points either out of order or that never even happened!) There was a mention of another title due to come out last year, but I haven't located it, so maybe the publisher just decided to pull the plug. A shame, as the author's Jane Jeffry series also ended on an underachieving note, in my opinion. I was hoping she'd get a chance to redeem herself and live up to the potential of the earlier Grace & Favor novels.
I've recommended this series before, so I apologize to anyone who may have stumbled upon this dud.
Posted February 5, 2007
Give this series a chance by starting at the beginning. There is humor and historical detail and a not-too-hard to figure out mystery that is still fun to follow. I really enjoy this series as a cozy historical/mystery. This entry seemed to be an in-between working up to better things in future books - hopefully! I'm not expecting, and don't want, deep character development, but a bit more would help to improve the overall series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 11, 2006
This author won an Agatha award but please - any Agatha Christie is so far superior to this there is no comparison. Not only does this book deal only on the surface of character development, there is a 20-30 page black hole about finding a buried skeleton that has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot - just filler. Also, although Agatha Christie would often have her characters suggest it must be some outsider unknown to us - she never used that (cheap) device!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 27, 2006
I am sorry- for having wasted the time to read this book. Set in the years of the Depression, this book had the potential for offering unique insights into the peculiar trials and tribulations affecting so much of America during those years, and weaving them into an interesting storyline and plot. Sadly, this book has no such ambition or any obvious ambition at all. Plodding, dull and lifeless,the book meanders on painfully without sparking any interest in (this) reader. Robert and his sister Lily are 'anti-heros'- there is nothing particularly noteworthy about them or any character in the book. I've read other books in the Grace and Favor series and was similarly unimpressed. This author has a whole other series with much more panache despite being set in modern times. They are reasonably worth reading but as for this book and its related series...don't bother.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 4, 2012
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