The Twist and Shout Murder

Book Cover: The Twist and Shout Murder
Part of the The Swinging Sixties series:
  • The Twist and Shout Murder

In 1962, Dot Morgan was told the best thing she could do besides being a nurse or teacher was to learn to type. While attending secretarial school, she decides to rub elbows with an elite ladies' club to help her father with a struggling campaign for city council. Instead of getting the help she sought, Dot is thrown into a world of adultery, deceit and murder when one of the town's sons is found dead. Time to put that 45 on the record player and bring out your best dance moves in The Twist and Shout Murder.

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Barb’s heels clicked on the sidewalk as she approached the porch of Arlene’s white two-story frame home. The orange and yellow marigolds looked a little droopy this morning, and I regretted not offering to water them. The Texas summer heat had settled into the low 90s, and it was taking its toll on everything including Arlene’s marigolds.

She turned on a smile fit for a beauty queen. “Hello. You must be Dot Morgan.” Barb Manning fanned herself with long slender fingers, “It’s getting warm for it to be only June.”

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“Come on inside.” I opened the door, and she stepped into Arlene’s front room, her glance taking in her surroundings. She pursed her lips, looking as if she were trying to be diplomatic as she eyed the furnishings. Arlene had chosen tones of yellow and burnt orange, including a pair of throw pillows with owls she needle pointed to pick up the colors in the wallpaper. The room had always felt cozy to me. Some nights Ellie and I sat in this room watching television with Arlene. Now I couldn’t escape the feeling it looked like a bad day at the thrift shop. Maybe those handmade owls looked tacky to someone like Barb. Maybe the people of her set considered orange and yellow too folksy and brash.

“I’m glad you had time to meet with me today.” She glanced around the room again, but this time she looked closer to the floor. “You can imagine it surprised us when you approached us about joining our little group. We have so few single girls.”

“I know, but I thought it might be fun.” I hoped that sounded convincing, hiding my true motive of promoting my father’s campaign in their influential circles.

“Well, even though it is unusual to have an unmarried member of the club, I figured you were just the woman for the job we need to have done. Your new membership couldn’t have come at a better time.”

It was wonderful they wanted me in their club, but there was something about her evaluation of my availability that worried me. Being single didn’t mean I had nothing to do. “What kind of job did you have in mind, Mrs. Manning?”

“Oh, please, darling. Don’t call me Mrs. Manning. Call me Barb.” She wrinkled her nose playfully like we were old buddies from the country club. “We’re friends now, aren’t we?”

“Barb,” I repeated obediently if not awkwardly.

“From looking at your lovely outfit, I can see you have an eye for color.” Her eyes shone as her eyebrows went up.

A compliment? Maybe the dress still looked good after two years? I began to feel better about our meeting. Could it be I misread her signals all along? I began to embrace the possibility that just because somebody lived in a nicer neighborhood didn’t mean that they couldn’t be a friend.

“That’s why I know you’ll be the perfect club member to make the flower arrangements for the Founder’s Day Banquet.”

The banquet was only two days away. When I attended the last meeting at the Camden Ladies’ Club, they were planning food, speakers, a guest list, and decorations. It was much more involved than I would have ever imagined. Assuming I would play a minor role at the banquet, I had thought little about it. I was in my fourth and final semester of a two-year program at the Hudson Secretarial School and was hoping the ladies’ club wouldn’t take from the time I needed to devote to finishing up my classes. Volunteering was important for my dad’s brand-new campaign, but school was my top priority, and I was looking forward to graduating, and beginning to apply for secretarial positions.

Barb squinted at me and then questioned. “You’ve made flower arrangements before, right? I’m sure it’s a part of the Home Ec course they teach at Camden High.”

“I guess so, but I’m not a florist. I’ve put flowers in a vase, if that’s what you mean.”

Her eyelids lowered as if hiding her disappointment. Maybe I could fit it in around studying for my next test.

“How many flower arrangements were you thinking of?” I was almost afraid of her answer, but how bad could it be?

She clapped her hands together, taking my question as a “yes.” “Not too many. Thirty would do it.”

“Thirty? You want me to make thirty flower arrangements?” I tried to hide my shock at this last-minute request, but I could feel my cheeks heating, not something I could hide with my fair skin. “As I said before, I’m a full-time student. As much as I would like to help you out, I have a big test coming up, and don’t have time to create thirty flower arrangements.”

Barb Manning tapped her deep red fingernails on the coffee table and licked her teeth behind a coat of matching red matte lipstick. Her expression was one of pity. “I guess I’m the one who’s sorry. I thought you wanted to be a part of our civic organization. I must have been wrong.”

Being in this club could give Dad that extra push he needed, and I didn’t intend to get booted out before I took part in my first event. I had to think of something. “Is there someone else I can work with to make these flower arrangements? Maybe if there were two of us, the task wouldn’t seem so monumental.”

Barb slowly shook her head as she smiled. “Out of the question. All our ladies are busy doing their own assigned tasks. Even though your contribution to the group was well, untested, we just assumed you could handle something as mindless as this.”

I stared at the floor, feeling her disappointment in me. “You have to admit making that many flower arrangements is a lot to ask at this short notice.” Perhaps I had been unrealistic thinking I could juggle a club membership and my studies. For people like Barb, volunteering was a full-time job.

She picked up her clutch bag and held it close to her body with her fingernails curled to the front. “By the way, congratulations on your father running for city council. So sad about Phil Boggs choking on that chicken bone. He always was the overindulgent type. I think it’s wonderful we have another fine citizen stepping up to the plate.”

“You know about his campaign?” My spirits lifted. She already knew about the city council race. Maybe, even if I did have to drop out of the club, she could be helpful anyway. Having the wife of the town’s D.A. happy to hear Dad would be running for the city council seat had to be good news.

“Of course, if you’re no longer a part of the Camden Ladies’ Club, attending the function would be slightly awkward. It will not do much for your father’s political career, either. We’re all pretty tight-knit around here. I might also mention other factors that could destroy the voters’ perception of him.”

Other factors? What other factors? “Just what exactly are you saying?”

She raised her chin. Her red fingernails clamped onto the bag. “I didn’t want to have to bring this up,” she tilted an eyebrow, “but you should be aware we know about your father’s…arrest record.”

I paled. This was like something out of a bad radio drama. I half expected to hear distant organ music. “I’m a little confused.”

“Your father was caught in a raid over at Miss Daisy’s last year. He might not have been charged, but his name is a part of the record.”

Miss Daisy’s was a brothel between Camden and the next town.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Heather D. on Net Galley wrote:

I need more from this series now! Dot Morgan is perfect.

Terry F. on Net Galley wrote:

Summer, 1962, and Dot Morgan are a winning combination. In The Twist and Shout Murder: A Swinging Sixties Mystery by Teresa Trent, summer in Camden, Texas, is about to heat up. Dot is in her final semester of secretarial school, her father is running for city council, and her cousin, Ellie, is frustrated with life—love life, that is. Dot has big plans now that the world is changing and women will have more opportunities. But Dot isn’t prepared for small-town personalities or powerful political families and soon finds herself outmaneuvered. Trent’s pacing is terrific. The countless sixties details make it a fun read. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

Sharon Lewis on Net Galley wrote:

Camden, Texas 1962. A town with one library, a movie theater and a powerful family who runs it. Dot Morgan, single and independent didn't want to believe the only way a woman's life will be fulfilling is to marry. With the support from her parents, Dot enrolls in the Hudson's Secretarial School.

Dot encourages her father to run for city council and when she joins the Camden Ladies Club with the hope of getting their support to back her father, she realizes the ladies aren't so nice. On the night of her father's campaign one of the town's elite is murdered and Dot dives in to help solve the murder.

The Twist and Shout Murder was a fun and fast-paced read. I was able to imagine how each character looked and how they were dressed from the author's writing. Little touches of the 60's era were scattered throughout the story which was nice since I was born in 1960, however I would've like to experience more of a small town feel in the story. There were lots of twists and turns to solve the murder, however I guessed the killer before I was halfway through the book, but I still enjoyed the journey.

I look forward to reading the second book in the series to see where Dot is in her life and other series Teresa Trent has written.

Julie on Net Galley wrote:

Thank you Netgalley and Level Best Books for this arc! What a fun, easy read! The writing was engaging and I loved the characters. Dot is a great main character and I loved how she stood up for herself and for her friends. I liked how societal issues were addressed throughout the book and how they added to the story. If you want a light and engaging read, this book is for you!

June Price on Net Galley wrote:

I had a blast watching Dot Morgan find herself and emerge as a strong, woman. Initially she comes across as rather demur, a young woman whose goal in life is to be a secretary. Dot has ambitions, however, even if they initially involve getting her father to run for the unexpected seat on the city council. He's reluctant but she talks him into it. Teresa Trent creates an adorable image of Dot and her father, Mike, dancing to the Isley's "Twist and Shout" in the kitchen, a nice connection to the era.

The trouble soon begins. Dot abruptly joins the Camden, Texas, Ladies Club thinking it might be helpful to her father's campaign. Head socialite Barb immediately makes her uncomfortable and turns her into a glorified gofer. I won't detail the plot but ultimately the candidate opposing Dot's father is murdered. Suspicion naturally falls on Dot's father, Mike, and Dot finds herself asking questions that bring her both attention and potential danger. Despite all this, Dot's basic kindness and moral code stand out against the political nastiness and class barriers exemplified by many of the ladies' club. One highlight of the increasing frustration felt by Dot as she tries to confront potential murderers is her burgeoning friendship with a reporter who seems almost as nice as Dot. Oddly enough, their basic niceness isn't cloying or annoying but welcome in contrast to the not so nice events about them.

So, who is the murderer? Or, maybe it really was an accident? And, what is going on with the side story involving Ellie and her long-time beau Al? Will Ellie or won't she? Will Dot ever manage to pass that shorthand course? How long would it take to transcribe 100 pages of a textbook into shorthand? I'm not sure I even want to know. Is the reporter friend or foe? Will they be able to deflect the insinuations cast by the story on Mike's late night trip to a, uh, bordello, to rescue a friend? Will Dot's mother believe the real story and stand by her man? Who was guilty of adultery? Did that play into the murder? Will Dot find the courage to stand up to Barb and the Camden Ladies Club? And how about that hit-and-run accident? What role, if any, does that play in the story? Finally, of course, who wins the campaign for city council?

All these questions and more will be answered in "The Twist and Shout Mystery". It was a delight watching Dot, who started out so demur and soft spoken, emerge as a strong woman ready to take on not just the Camden Ladies Club but the world. Remember 1962? That wasn't always the case for women back then, hence it's a delight to have Trent share this character on the brink of a world about to change. I'm looking forward to following Dot on her journey through the "Swinging Sixties" and, hopefully, beyond. Fun read with bits of the history of the time scattered throughout and a growing stronger every day main character. What's not to like?

Nadine on Net Galley wrote:

A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer.