Cover image for One o'clock jump
One o'clock jump
McClendon, Lise.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur, 2001.
Physical Description:
276 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Halfway around the world, war has begun, but for Dorie Lennox, a newly-minted private-eye on her first tail, danger is more immediate. The dark streets of Kansas City of 1939 offer swing music, fast cars, gangsters, and the chance to forget about the Depression and her own murky past. But first Dorie must conquer her fears and save a woman on a bridge high above the muddy Missouri. When the woman takes a dive, Dorie is thrown into a quickly unraveling scam that offers salvation to few - and misery to plenty - in the high stakes world of machine politics and desperation deals. Lennox's path to Kansas City is full of detours, a brush with the law, a lost family, an aborted university and track career. But she's found a home of sorts in the Italian neighborhood of the Market, in a boardinghouse full of souls as lost and quirky as her own. Her switchblade goes everywhere with her, even as a rabbit's foot for luck, and sometimes as much more. Her boss, Amos Haddam, was a British soldier in World War I. Lost behind the lines he was gassed and has the scarred lungs to prove it. When he lands in the hospital, Lennox must carry the ball, clearing Haddam's name and finding who is playing her for a sucker. With vivid, sure prose and sharp dialogue, the world of Dorie Lennox comes alive, behind the wheel of her Packard, into the packinghouses, race tracks, and mansions of Kansas City. The landscape of America, the homefront of World War II, is evoked in a thoughtful, forceful mystery that lingers for the force of characters and keen sharpness of a slice of history through the perceptive, compassionate eyes of Dorie Lennox.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

McClendon, author of the Alix Thorssen mystery series, introduces a new heroine with this first Dorie Lennox novel, set in 1939 Kansas City. The corrupt Pendergast political machine has been brought down, but the gangsters are still slugging it out; one of them, Georgie Terraciano, hires PI Lennox, who works for longtime friend Arthur Haddam, to follow his girlfriend, Iris Jackson. When Jackson appears to take a header off the Hannibal Bridge, the case should be over, but it isn't. Terraciano and his wife both want Lennox to keep digging, but various, unidentified thugs have other ideas. McClendon plays the World War II swing era for all its worth (Count Basie makes a cameo), and the switchblade-packing Lennox displays plenty of grit in that pants-wearing, Rosie the Riveter kind of way. Sundry subplots, involving Lennox's troubled past and romantic misadventures, as well as the melancholy ramblings of her mustard-gassed employer, prove more distracting than character building, but overall, this is a solidly put together, reasonably evocative period piece. Lennox bears watching. Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Segueing neatly from the ski slopes of contemporary Wyoming (1999's Nordic Nights) to the Kansas City of Count Basie and FDR's fireside chats, McClendon debuts an excellent historical series, with evocative period dialogue and a story line full of surprises. Iris Jackson is a woman with a secret, but not for long. PI Dorie Lennox, hired to tail the meatpacker's "bar girl," thinks her first solo job is over when Iris jumps into the Missouri River, but this is just the beginning. Background on Iris is hard to find; rummaging through her few belongings yields scant information. Frustrated, Dorie picks up the investigation her partner, a WWI vet suffering from mustard gas poisoning, was working on when he was hospitalized centered on the new racetrack outside Kansas City. With little to go on, Dorie follows what leads she has straight into a web of false identities, cover-ups and fraud. Everyone seems to have at least one secret the crooked lawyer who instructs her to pursue the trail, the meatpacker, the silent partners in the racetrack, even Dorie herself. Layers of lies, pretext and disguise must be peeled back to solve an old mystery before thugs succeed in doing more than simply beating her up. After a somewhat sluggish start, the pace accelerates rapidly, as Dorie moves from hospital to racetrack, to jazz clubs, wisecracking all the way. With a blurb praising Dorie's appeal from Sue Grafton, McClendon (author also of the Alix Thorssen series) seems well poised to make this new series a hit. (Mar. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dorie Lennox, an operative for a PI in Kansas City during the early days of World War II, tails a bargirl for a possibly mob-connected client. Dorie's prey flings herself off a bridge, but the client wants to continue the case. A ransacked room and personal threats galvanize Dorie to action, especially when the client's jealous wife apparently receives a call from the dead jumper, whom Dorie had viewed in the morgue. A convincing re-creation of time, place, and a hard-nosed, emotionally scarred heroine; for all collections. [This is the first in a new series by the author of the Alix Thorssen mysteries, e.g., Nordic Nights.DEd.] (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One 1939 Inside the plate-glass window of the Hot Cha Cha Club, the bar girl was taking off her apron. Soon she'd be out the door. Dorie Lennox stubbed out her Lucky under her shoe and got ready to move.     The evening had been quiet, the sky softened with clouds. On the corner, a clatter cut the silence as two rummies stumbled out of a smoky joint. Lennox shrank back into the shadows. They saw her. The bandy-legged one stuck his face up to her. "How's about a little hootchie-cootchie?"     "Beat it." She fingered her knife, deep in the pocket of her trousers. The warm ivory handle was reassuring. The drunk smelled like the river, oily and overripe, the wicked smell of the Missouri. The shiver that had woken her up melted into disgust.     The taller fellow grabbed his arm. "Look at 'er--she's no quiff--"     "The hell." Shorty straightened his greasy lapels. "Not good 'nough fer ya, zat it?"     His breath knocked her back. "That's right, I got standards."     "Give us some sugar, eh, toots." The gee lurched right, blind with liquor.     "Scram, I said."     The tall one dragged Shorty down to the alley, where he sang overtures to a garbage can, then stumbled off. Lennox shook out the tension in her shoulders.     The bright hair flashed under the streetlamp as the bar girl came through the door onto the sidewalk. Lennox looked down. Her knife was in her hand, blade ready. When had she done that? She wouldn't have really hurt that harmless old lush. just looking for love, wasn't he. In this world full of hate and war, who could blame him? The blade's point twinkled in the streetlight. Still, he shouldn't have called her "toots."     She closed the switchblade and dropped it back in her pocket. The blade was a necessary evil. It reminded her of the sharp edge between rage and mercy. Why she still needed reminders, she had no idea. Why she needed the knife was easier.     Across the street, Iris Jackson was in no hurry. The bar girl buttoned her gabardine jacket, checked her seams. The sheet of platinum hair fell against her cheek. Her eyes, Lennox knew, were a deep blue, the color of a storm rising at sea. Clutching a small handbag, the bar girl turned and walked toward the corner.     Lennox climbed into her Packard, turned the key. The radio came on, more war news. If only it was the Andrews Sisters with the "Beer Barrel Polka," we could all forget about Hitler, the Poles, the whole bloody mess. Follow cheating bottle blondes, do our duty that way.     If only. She eased the Packard down the street. The taillights of Iris's sedan, a slate blue rattletrap of a Nash, headed around the corner. Lennox gunned the big car, slowing to keep the bald tires from squealing. At least the old engine still had its getaway guts. With the streets deserted, keeping Iris in sight was easy work.     She wasn't in a hurry, and she wasn't headed home. Going north, more or less, jogging east, then west, but mainly north. Iris paused at Wyandotte and Eighth, as if she was lost. Lennox looked up to her office windows in the Boston Building, then followed Iris up Broadway. It looked like she was headed across the river, when she made an abrupt right turn onto Fifth.     The car stopped under a streetlamp. This was Lennox's neighborhood. She knew all the flophouses and corn brokers and the warm-hop stench of the brewery by heart. Her shoulders tensed. The questions. Why they thought the hotcha bar girl was stepping out on her boyfriend. Nobody ever gave her reasons. Not the cold-eyed boyfriend, Georgie Terraciano, certainly not the tight-lipped lawyer, old Dutch Vanvleet. Not even Amos. He only speculated that Iris might find a little slap and tickle tonight. As if he remembered his slap from his tickle, the old jasper.     But the silence was jake. Reasons only made you think, conjure up wild scenarios. Better to smoke Luckies and watch the door. That was what she was getting paid for.     A U-turn, then a roll by Fifth. The Nash was parked opposite dim light from the small windows of a bar. THE CHATTERBOX, the pink neon said. Girls from the boardinghouse sometimes went there to play pool on Tuesday nights, when the tables were reserved for female customers. But it was Friday: The Day the War Began, that was how she would remember today. Iris Jackson climbed slowly out of the car, straightened her jacket, patted her hair, then slammed the door shut.     Gunning the beast south, Lennox turned onto Sixth and over to Central, whipped around the block in time to see Iris disappearing into the Chatterbox. A Studebaker rounded the corner and flashed its headlights in her eyes. She parked the Packard, put the camera on the dash to steady it, and, focusing on the Chatterbox's neon sign, snapped off a shot. The rest of the block was boarded-up shops, a warehouse for mattresses and springs, several garages, a warehouse for wholesale liquor, its sign bearing crooked letters: BEEWARE VISHUS DOG.     Lennox scribbled the time and address in the black-and-white notebook. The boyfriend, "Gorgeous Georgie," Amos called him, was keen on details, reports. He had a deep streak of suspicion, no doubt from the company he kept.     The Lucky pack was empty. She rolled down the window, catching a stink from the packinghouses that reeked of beef offal. Funny, wasn't it, how she'd lost her taste for beef. What had she expected from Kansas City--romance, glamour, fortune? No, she'd gone that route, only to get temporarily lost. Now she just wanted to be one of the girls, shoot pool on Tuesdays, go to the pictures, laugh, dance, share secrets. A humble plan. But those boardinghouse girls, poor but decent, they, didn't need to carry a switchblade around to remember the gentler virtues. No amount of laughter or peach cobbler or dollar-an-hour jitterbug lessons would change that.     Thick air trapped the city's smoke and stink from factories and cattle yards and kitchens. The city had rescued her from Atchison. She should be grateful. Goddamn, she was grateful. But after five long nights on the same shadowy streets, left to her meandering thoughts, Lennox felt itchy and restless. At least Iris had changed her pattern tonight, not gone straight home to her Penn Valley Park apartment.     The news from Europe made it hard to concentrate. Kraków bombed, dire consequences predicted. Half a world away, a drumbeat of doom. Talk of war had been brewing for ages. Inevitable for us, too? Some said yes.     Suddenly, in the gloom, Lennox saw herself high in the air in a blue uniform, flying an airplane. Air in her face, hands on the controls. Going places, doing things. Like her hometown girl, Amelia Earhart, only for country, justice, democracy, glory. Then she remembered her bad knee and the vision melted.     Following the bar girl to work, then home: not much glory there. Not much excitement. But excitement got her into trouble the first time: the Charleston, Luckies, speakeasies, hooch. She looked at her cigarette packet.     Well, she wasn't completely rehabilitated.     The waiting was killing in this job. But she couldn't teach the shag at Arthur Murray and she couldn't balance books. Lucky, that's what she was, to have this job. She'd frittered away her short time in college. Another humble plan shot to bits. Do something right for once, she told herself in the dark.     Music. She twisted the dial. Count Basie was in New York. WDAF had a big band on; she wasn't sure who, maybe Artie Shaw. Or maybe, from the sound of the trumpet solo, just some local schmoes. You'd think in Kansas City on a Friday night a person could get a little swing.     She settled back into the wide seat. Do something right . Hadn't she been on the straight and narrow since Verna died? Played by the rules? And look where it had gotten her. She shook out her hands, tried to relax. She'd begged Amos to let her work alone. She was ready; the run-in with the rummy proved that. Switching her knife without realizing it, that bothered her. But better switching it out than being too afraid to switch it at all.     The thought that Iris Jackson might slip out the back made her move. She was halfway to the saloon when the woman stepped out of the Chatterbox, her hair blushed with neon. Iris paused before stepping away, alone, toward Broadway, not toward her car. Meeting the other boyfriend at last?     The bright hair disappeared around the corner. Lennox ran back to the car, grabbed the camera, skipped up to the Chatterbox. The place was quiet except for the clack of billiard balls. She walked by the windows and paused at the corner.     Iris Jackson was a block away already, walking purposefully toward the bridge, her hair neat and shiny under the streetlights. She walked steadily on the high platform shoes, backside in action, a girl with experience. She skipped up the ramp to the bridge, skirting the tollbooth, and melted into the shadows.     Lennox broke into a hobbly run. The knee complained with each step, the switchblade thumping against her thigh. The upper level of the bridge was reserved for automobiles, and the occasional pedestrian. The tollbooth operator hollered something ornery as she passed. Below, the shine of the train level's rails was muted by mist.     She slowed, breathing hard, cursing her stiff new leather oxfords. Torturous, vain purchase. The walkway stretched into the night. On the riverbank below, rail lines snaked along the bottoms to the east; then willows and rushes filled in the swampy banks. Tar-paper hovels with kerosene lanterns flickering were tucked into the reeds. Downriver, several barges were tied up at the wharf, one empty and two piled high with cargo. A ghostly white steamboat rocked on the current, its tall smokestacks dissolving into a cloud. The tinkle of piano music faded in and out. The night darkened and the boat's glow dimmed to hazy yellow points in the mist.     High above the river's edge, she paused. Where were the cars? The quiet made her shiver, as if a pause before--what? Darkness stretched across the wide Missouri. A car rushed behind her and away, its headlights streaking down the platform, taillights bleeding dots. Across the river, a light from the airport tower blinked its eye in the night.     She squeezed the clammy steel railings of the bridge. Only a bridge, over an ordinary river. The tiny voice came suddenly to life in her head: I'll sing you one oh, green grow the rushes oh, what is your one-oh, one is one and all alone and evermore shall be so .     Lennox shook her head. No, little sister, not now. I'll sing you two-oh . She squeezed the steel harder, listened to her ragged breathing. Rest now, Tillie Mae. Finally, the sweet voice was gone. From railing to upright, she tiptoed down the edge, fingering the knife in her pocket. She had wanted excitement. Well, here you are. She pulled the knife out, held it closed in her hand. It was warm, solid, even if a person had to get too close to use it.     She'd cut a girl once, at Beloit. Lucille, who called Dorie a dyke in the yard at the girl's school. Said she'd been playing pussy with her friend Irene. Lennox had a tough hide, she could take names, but Irene, a bad-luck girl with a tender heart, her face burned up and she started to cry. Lennox cut Lucille across the palm.     She peered into the blackness now, trying not to think about that blood, to focus on Iris. Where was she? The camera dug into Lennox's chest, the strap cutting the back of her neck. Her breathing slowed, only to be replaced by the thumping in her chest. Maybe she should go back for the car. Maybe Iris would get away for sure then.     It wasn't possible to get through life without hurting people. Life had conspired to teach Lennox that much. With another weapon, a gun, you'd be farther from the blood, removed from the necessary damage you inflict. Times like these, she debated the benefits of other weapons. But the knife, well, she and the blade went way back. She'd tried giving it up after Beloit, but that was a piss-poor experiment in gentility. Most damage, the most cruel kind, was invisible anyway.     A truck motored up from the North KC side, slow and smelly. She pressed into the space behind a girder as it passed. Her back felt damp now, and a chill set in.     A nervous laugh escaped her. She claimed to hate the blood, but she knew herself. The rush of the fight, the release of the rage, was too sweet. It had its own life.     Far below, the river smelled alive. Snakes and fish with huge snouts and hairy jaws and mighty teeth lived in it. It moved silently along, oblivious. She'd made wishes to the river, in Atchison, back when things like that mattered. Beloit, and all that followed, had cured a lot of bad habits.     High above the river, she felt suspended, weightless. As if the past had never happened, or the future would never come. She opened her eyes wide to see better in the deep shadows. No sign of movement down the narrow walk. Had someone picked Iris up on the bridge? If so, they must have been waiting for her, stopped, then gone north. No other cars had come this way.     Damn, the truck. Was Iris giving her the slip? Had she crossed over and jumped into the slow-moving truck?     Lennox walked faster, still keeping in the shadows. The oxfords made a soft, rhythmic clang. Iris must have seen her. But what was she hiding? Who the hell was she to jump into a truck and make her getaway--just a meat packer's girlfriend? The lack of moonlight shadowed everything. A glint of city light off the water kept up a little glow from underneath. Where could she be? The truck, it had to be the truck.     Lennox muttered softly, hauling herself over the coals for blowing the tail. The sound of an approaching train filled the night. With a squeal of metal on metal and a crunch of gears, the train turned onto the bridge, shaking it down to its tall rock piers. She held on to a girder. The vibrations increased, the clickety-clack echoing off the water. Leaning out over the water, she watched the cars go by. Two engines pulled a short string of passenger and Pullman cars, a longer line of rust-colored boxcars, perforated cattle and horse cars, oil tankers, grain cars, north to Chicago and points east.     A blast of the whistle pulsated through her ears. She closed her eyes. The full effect of the train's weight, bending and rattling the metal of the old bridge, moved through her hands and into her shoulders. The bridge throbbed. Finally, it faded away. As the clackety-clack conjured old memories of midnight train rides, she opened her eyes.     Mist swirled in the train's wake. Lennox peered after the green caboose. A pale figure flickered in the corner of her eye. Down on the rail level, less than ten feet to the left, there was Iris Jackson. Was she standing on the railing or leaning over it? The blue shirtwaist floated out on the wind. Her head was bowed as if in prayer. For a second, she was there; then she fell.     Dorie held her breath. Shining like the friar's lantern, the figure twisted into the air, too small for a human, too light, too insubstantial. The dress pressed against her legs, then billowed up over her face. Silver hair flying, streaming, down into the muddy river. She hung, growing smaller and smaller, caught in the moist, chill air.     Then the river swallowed her up. The river, whose open arms were always ready for those with nothing left to lose.     A small, distant, liquid slap. Then silence.     Lennox shuddered, gripping the camera. She followed the pale figure with her eyes, floating now, arms splayed. Toward the dimly lit riverboat, down the river.     "Damn it to hell."     Lennox rested the camera on the railing and clicked off three shots in rapid succession. The figure of Iris was nothing more than a small rise in the wide brown-black surface of the river, a chalky smudge in the dirt. Then she was gone.     Kicking the nearest girder, Lennox hurt her toes, cursed harder. The vibrations made a eerie whisper up and down the steel, like voices.     "Damn you, Iris Jackson!"     Down the long bridge, the white head of the tollbooth operator popped out of the ramshackle building. Lennox took a breath, looked up at the cottony sky and down at the muddy, catfish-laced water. It looked like the Iris Jackson job was over. She was alone, again.     Yes, little sister, we are all one-oh, and ever more to be so.