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New Books Network Interview: Louise Hare

A young African American woman holding a microphone, seen against an urban background. Another woman lies on her side, positioned against a pavement. Cover of Harlem after Midnight by Louise Hare

A little over a year ago, I hosted a written Q&A with Louise Hare about her first Canary Club mystery, Miss Aldridge Regrets. You can find that conversation, if you’re interested, on my former blog site. This year, I had the pleasure of conducting a New Books Network interview about the second book, Harlem after Midnight, which came out from Berkley on August 29 of this year.

These are fast-paced, immersive mystery novels set in 1936, first in London and on the RMS Queen Mary as it travels between Britain and the United States, then in New York City—primarily Harlem, because Lena Aldridge, the heroine, is a biracial jazz singer. But each of them also features an unusual structure, which as a novelist I found particularly interesting. In Miss Aldridge Regrets, the first person we meet is the murderer (unnamed, of course), who then updates us throughout the book. The second juggles three separate timelines, keeping us wondering about both Lena’s fate and how these three streams will in the end intersect. It’s all very well done, ramping up the tension and keeping readers wondering until the very end.

As always, the rest of this post comes from New Books in Historical Fiction.

After a tumultuous journey across the Atlantic (detailed in last year’s Miss Aldridge Regrets), Lena Aldridge has reached New York City only to discover that the Broadway show that lured her away from London will not run. While waiting to board a ship home, she accepts an invitation to stay with the Linfields, longtime friends of Will Goodman, the musician Lena came to trust on the passage over. She hopes to learn more about Will and explore the possibilities of a warmer relationship—although his job on the Queen Mary means, Lena assumes, that they can never be together as a couple. She also seeks to find out more about her own father, who died less than a year before this novel opens in 1936 but originally hailed from New York—or so he told Lena.

Three African American women in 1920s style outdoor clothing, against a city background

As this main narrative unfolds, it is interspersed with two others. One involves a woman who falls from a third-story window in Harlem eight days after Lena’s arrival. The second, set in 1908–1909, gradually reveals the events that convinced Lena’s father, Alfred, to leave the United States without looking back.

The rapid shifts in time require a nimble reader, but each story is compelling in its own terms. And by the time we reach the end, all the loose threads have been tied up, and we eagerly wait to find out what will happen next.

Photograph of three women on a city street during the Harlem Renaissance (ca. 1925) public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


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