Review By Veronica

The Jazz Club Spy is an addictive, heart-pounding historical read.

Favourite Quote:

He must have felt my gaze because he looked up, and when his cold blue eyes met mine, my hands went to my arms and the old scars there. My body remembered before my mind caught up. I looked away. Was it even possible to recognize someone from many years ago? I snuck another peek at him. He was older now by nineteen years, his beard flecked with gray, his eyelids droopy, and his jowls like loose chicken skin. But the eyes and flat cheekbones had not changed. If I could hear him speak, listen to his accent, find out if he spoke the same harsh, guttural Russian of our region, I could at least figure out if he was from around my village. 

The ticket collector came down the aisle and stopped in front of the man, waiting for him to cough up his fare. I leaned forward, hoping he would say something, but he just tugged off his glove, reached in his coat pocket, and handed over a coin. Then the ticket collector moved on to the next passenger. The tip of the man’s little finger was missing. A scrap of a memory surfaced. It was hazy at first, then it took form and shape—the taste of blood and cartilage and bone and the scent of fear and heart-stopping screams. 

I had bitten off that finger. It was the Cossack.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

New York, 1939

Giddy Brodsky knows she’s lucky to have a job as a cigarette girl at a Manhattan jazz club, but she dreams of opening her own beauty shop and lifting her family out of poverty. The Brodskys have lived cheek to jowl in the Lower East Side tenements since they came to America nineteen years ago, fleeing a deadly pogrom in their Russian village. But they continue to face prejudice, especially with the rise of the fascist organization the American Bund.

Yet Giddy is focused on the future—until she recognizes one of the Cossacks who irrevocably changed her life and the past comes flooding back. Determined to get justice, she enlists the help of Carter van der Zalm, a regular at the jazz club who also happens to be the director with the Department of Immigration at Ellis Island. When Carter discloses that the Cossack is an “undesirable” and may be of interest to the government, Giddy agrees to moonlight as a spy for him.

Not everyone is who they appear to be, and after a shocking betrayal, Giddy finds herself embroiled in a political conspiracy that could bring America into the war in Europe.

From the gritty tenements to the glittering jazz clubs of 1930s New York, The Jazz Club Spy is a thrilling historical novel about a brash young woman who must use all her wits to save the ones she loves.

Gosh, I am having difficulty finding the words to describe this book to y’all. All I want to do is tell everyone (who is a historical fiction fan) to go out and buy this book. I absolutely love everything about The Jazz Club Spy. It took me on a wild game of cat and mouse, and what made this book even more juicier, is that you don’t know who the real enemy is. I’ve read many historical fiction books, most of them taking place during World War II, and I love reading them, but they can sometimes feel a bit repetitive. This book approaches the events of the war in a unique and interesting manner. We are transported to New York at the very beginning of the war. Many Americans are still trying to survive the great depression and are growing weary of the news that war has just broken out in Europe. We meet Giddy, a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine; she works as a cigarette girl while providing for her family and saving up to open her own cosmetic store. One night, Giddy recognizes a man who once terrorized her family back in Ukraine. Determined to make this man pay for what he has done to her family, Giddy teams up with Carter, the director of the Department of Irrigation on Ellis Island, to gather evidence to bring this man to justice. Giddy doesn’t know that a larger, more sinister plot is happening, and she soon finds herself in the middle of it. 

Roberta does a masterful job of integrating historical facts into her story. As a reader, I never felt inundated with information or lost with what was happening in New York and the world during this time. Roberta has done her research and was thoughtful when approaching some of these tougher topics. She touches upon Pogrom in the Ukraine, abortion, rape, and what it is like for a woman to be living in New York during these times. What I also really liked about this book was that there was this sense of balance between these heavier issues and this spy game of cat and mouse Giddy was involved in. The “spy” aspects helped to elevate those heavier emotions I was feeling. There are so many moments in this book that had my heart pounding and had me at the edge of my seat. And I have to say the ending is utter perfection.  

I took an instant liking to Giddy; she is smart, savvy, and resilient. Her ability to be able to read people helped her make a living and also served her well when she found herself becoming a rookie spy. It was so incredibly fascinating to be able to explore Giddy’s world. Many people see her as a poor Jewish immigrant, but Giddy thinks of herself as a self-made woman working hard to achieve her goal of opening her own business. The dynamic that exists within Giddy’s family is so complex and full of dark secrets. Roberta does such a great job at slowly shedding light on these secrets. She gives readers a little tidbit of information, which only fuels their need to keep on reading because they need to know more.   

The Jazz Club Spy is a must-read for any historical fiction bookworm and a book that I will be reading again and again. 

Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.