About the Book
Book: The Last Gasp
Author: Chautona Havig
Genre: Christian Historical Mystery, Fairytale retelling
Release date: July 6, 2021
At the pinnacle of his Hollywood career, Garrison Prince’s reign ends tonight.
As plain old Gary Prinz, he can pursue his Bible education, buy a bungalow in Pasadena, acquire a few chickens, and marry the girl of his dreams. He just never imagined trading the silver screen for a pulpit would wreak such havoc.
A cigarillo girl, Lucinda Ashton spends her days with her boyfriend, Gary, and her evenings selling candy and “gaspers” to the Hollywood elite at the Taj Mahal Theater.
However, when gunshots ring out just as intermission begins, Lucinda finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a brouhaha that leaves three dead, and no one has a clue why.
All the police know is that the evidence points to Lucinda as the killer and Gary as the intended target.
Four new friends, one young orphan, and a potluck of clues that don’t seem to fit anywhere leave the police baffled, Lucinda in fear for her freedom, and Gary ready to trade in his acting shoes for gumshoes if it’ll save his “Cinda.”
The first book in the Ever After Mysteries combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries, The Last Gasp. This Cinderella retelling blends a murder with enough crime and story clues to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Murder mysteries are not my favorite genre, by any means. I usually steer clear of them. I don’t like reading about blood and gore and people dying, and since much of my reading time is the 15 minutes just before I go to bed at night, I don’t like to read very many books that are so gripping that I dream about them all night (that’s not very conducive to a good night’s sleep!). However, if Chautona Havig writes a murder mystery, I’ll read it—I know I will enjoy it, and I won’t end up dreaming all night about the story, trying to solve the mystery. At least, most of the time I won’t. Chautona’s most recent mystery, The Last Gasp, has a few scenes that aren’t pleasant, but overall it’s a delightful story.
Gary Prinz, also known as Garrison Prince, reigns as Hollywood royalty after starring in another new film—but today he is resigning. He has made up his mind to go to Bible college and become a pastor, and Mr. Walker, the head of Imperial Studios, is not happy about it.
Lucinda is making a modest living for herself selling candy and cigarettes at the Taj Mahal Theater, and spending time during the day with her friend Gary. She thinks he is about to propose, and has determined what her answer will be. Tonight, though, she has to work, being careful, as usual, not to look at the faces of the elite she sells her wares to, even though Garrison tries to catch her attention.
When a shot rings out at intermission and an actress falls dead, and three more people end up dead before the night is out, no one can figure out a motive—much less who might have killed them. Lucinda is dumbfounded when she is arrested for the murders—why would anyone think she might have been responsible? And who was being aimed at, anyway? Was Mr. Walker really that unhappy with Garrison? Lucinda, herself, wasn’t very happy when she discovered that her Gary was actually Garrison Prince. Why had he concealed that information from her? Could she really trust him?
As I said, I don’t enjoy the bloody part of a murder mystery. I was glad that part only took up a few pages! On the other hand, though, as I’ve read before about stories like this one, it’s satisfying to see evil brought to justice. The author did a great job of concealing the real murderer until nearly the end of the story, and weaving a delightful romance through the story at the same time that the investigation is going on. She was able to weave genuine faith in God throughout the story, too, in a way that I loved. I also loved the child who comes into the story! If you enjoy gentle, clean romantic suspense, don’t miss this story. It’s good!
I received a review copy of this book from the author, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: People are shot in Chapters 3, 5 and 6.
About the Author:
Author of the bestselling Aggie and Past Forward series, Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.
More From Chautona:
What Beautiful, Unexpected Parallel Did I Find Writing this Mystery?
I bought it at Pic-n-Save when I was eleven—an 8.5×11 paperback book of traditional fairy tales. I learned another side of the age-old stories that you don’t see from Disney. Rapunzel? Yeah. That was the story about the queen who was craving rampion (a salad vegetable) so much that she promised to give up her child for it. Rampion—Rapunzel. It’s a thing.
It’s also where I learned Cinderella’s name as “Aschenputtel.” Look, those Brothers Grimm were… well, they were German and that should explain everything. “Puttel” just sings of German, doesn’t it? That tale was also a bit gruesome. The one sister cut off her big toe to make the shoe fit because her mother said, “You won’t have to walk anywhere if you’re a queen. Who needs it!” So the idiotic girl did. Same for the other sister and her heel. Seriously, didn’t she learn from her older sister?
Oh, and it’s the one where mother and stepsisters get their eyes picked out by birds. It reminded me of Proverbs 30:17. “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”
Talk about bringing Scripture to life for kids there. Gulp
True confession, our kids used to sing that verse to the tune of “All Hail the Pow’r of Jesus’ Name.” You should have heard the lusty voices of our children in our Grand Marquis station wagon (may the wonderful beast rest in peace) singing, “The ravens shall pick out his eyes and eeee-agles eeee-eeaat the saaaammmme!”
Cinderella—I mean, Aschenputtel—really wasn’t my favorite story, though. I liked other stories from other books. Like the Ten Brothers—a Chinese folk tale. You know. Fairy tale.
Know which fairy tale I liked even less than Cinderella?
The Little Mermaid. Seriously, I didn’t like the original (Sorry Mr. Andersen… I just didn’t), and I can’t stand Disney’s. But when we first began planning the Ever After Mysteries, I knew which one I wanted to do. The Little Mermaid had everything going for it. Houdini and a water tank. Can’t you just see it? It would have been great. But a friend asked who was writing about the “cigarillo girl” (as I mention in THIS post), and well… the rest is history. Or at least, it’s set back in history.
But there’s one truth I discovered as I wrote this mystery.
Mystery… that’s a good word for this truth, actually. Cinderella is a beautiful picture of Jesus as our prince. We can be His bride and put on the shoe He has fashioned only to fit us, or we can try to snatch it up and make it suit our wills and hold our overgrown egos (work with me here). He takes us out of our ragged, dirty lives and brings us home… to Him. To His Father.
Is there anything more beautiful? I don’t think so.
In The Last Gasp, Gary knows Cinda long before she knows him—truly knows him. He loves her just as she is. Is it a perfect retelling of the beauty of Christ’s love for his church? Not hardly. It wasn’t intended to demonstrate that relationship at all. But there are tiny nuances that do. And that’s pretty cool.
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Good news. Much less murdering (and no “on the page”) in the next one. SQUEE! Thanks for reading and reviewing!