Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Indigo Necklace: Frances Crane


Beginning in the early 1940's, Frances Crane wrote a series of over 25 books featuring Pat and Jean Abbott. Most of the books had a color in the title, and they were set in a variety of locations. The couple meet in New Mexico, where Jean has an antique shop. Pat is from San Francisco, and the book I just read is set in New Orleans. Pat is a private investigator, and does most of the investigating, but the stories are narrated by Jean.

In The Indigo Necklace, published in 1945, Pat and Jean are living in a rented apartment in an old house in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where Pat is stationed toward the end of World War II. Jean describes the group of people living in the house:
This was an interesting place. It had charm. On the surface, it had tranquility. Underneath, strange currents ran darkly. Roger Clary had an invalid wife. The wife had a nurse. The nurse only spoke French. Aunt Dollie and Uncle George Sears had been visiting Aunt Rita Clary for seven years, but they had been waiting to go back to Paris. The Graham girls called this their home and Toby Wick had the run of the place when he didn't seem in the least to belong. It was very interesting. And we were lucky to be here.


Mysterious things happen; someone walks through the Abbott's living room while Jean is dozing. Later, a woman dies in the courtyard of the building. When they discover that it is murder, Pat and Jean become involved in the investigation.



Based on what I have read about the series, these books often fall into the "woman in peril" sub-genre. Jean is unafraid and gets herself involved in trouble often. Based on this novel, I would guess that there is enough entertainment in the novels regardless of this, and especially if you enjoy a picture of the times in which they were written. I will try more of these books to find out. 


What I really loved about this book were the descriptions of the French Quarter and the building the Abbott's live in. That building sounded so much like a place my husband and I stayed in many years ago when we visited the French Quarter, called the Maisonettes. The rooms all faced a courtyard, with a fountain. The building was very old, from the early 1800s.

Jean and Pat live near to the St. Louis Cathedral, and go for walks in that area. They eat at many restaurants that still exist in the French Quarter: Antoine's, Arnaud's. The season is summer and it is hot and muggy. I felt like I was there with them.

Other views:
  • Sarah at Crimepieces reviews The Golden Box and Thirteen White Tulips.
  • Moira at Clothes in Books looks at Thirteen White Tulips here and here.

The photos in this post were taken by my husband in 1979 in the French Quarter, New Orleans. The top picture is the St. Louis Cathedral. The bottom picture was the door to our room at the Maisonettes. Note that in the background of the middle picture (also of the Maisonettes) there is a tiny spiral staircase from the veranda to the courtyard. It was for the resident cat.

28 comments:

  1. Tracy - I had a chance to visit the French Quarter once, and loved it. If you go to the places the tourists don't see, it's remarkable. And you've reminded me of Frances Crane's work, for which thanks. I haven't read any of it in so long that my memory's got quite fuzzy.

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    1. Margot, I have very fond memories of New Orleans and the French Quarter, and it was fun to be reminded of our visits there.

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  2. Tracy theses books sound wonderful! Thanks for introducing me to them! I love vintage!

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    1. Peggy, I hope you do try some of them. I want to hear what you think of them.

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  3. Thanks, I hadn't heard of Frances Crane and I intend to give her a go, she sounds like my cup of tea. Those photos are beautiful and I love that wee staircase.

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    1. Katrina, I had not heard of Frances Crane until fairly recently either. She had an interesting life. And a good writing career.

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  4. I love this post, Tracy. Just gorgeous photos by your hubby. (Imagine a special little spiral staircase for the cat!) I am very fond of husband and wife detectives as you may know (Delano Ames. Delano Ames. Delano Ames.) I'd never heard of these books but now that you've introduced me to them, I'm going to search them out. SO, thanks for the intro!

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    1. Thanks, Yvette. I love the pictures, it had been a while since we had looked through the scans of old photos and slides. I have got to get to Delano Ames, since I already have some of the books. I am sure I read one or two of them many years ago.

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  5. I never heard of this author, but now I'm tempted, seeing these beautiful photos. What intrigues those buildings could hold -- conspiracies in the courtyard, lovers sneaking out along the balcony, murderers hiding in doorways.

    I will try to find one of Frances Crane's books at the library. Sound delightful.

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    1. Kathy, I hope you do find one of her books. I will be looking for them at book sales also.

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  6. Tracy, lovely photos - they seem like a lifetime ago. I haven't tried this author and in truth I don't think I'm going to either. Glad you enjoyed it though.

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    1. Col, I don't think this author is for you. But she does paint a nice picture of New Orleans.

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  7. What a wonderful post Tracy. I love the photos. And the books sound good too. Will surely look up this author.

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    1. Thanks, Neer. Since you like vintage mysteries, you would probably enjoy books from this series. The mystery wasn't strong in this one but the overall story was fine.

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    2. Glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. It did bring back memories of New Orleans, as it did for you - especially the restaurants. Nobody who hasn't visited New Orleans will understand the central role dining out plays in the lives of its residents, and I loved the way the Abbotts and the police wound up in well-known (and real) restaurants discussing the case. Great fun!

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    3. Les, it was so much fun reading this and remembering New Orleans. The Abbotts did develop quite a relationship with the police captain. I wondered how he could afford to eat out so much.

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  8. Sounds like a great pick for a vintage crime story! I would love to visit New Orleans one of these days.

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    1. Laurie, I don't know what New Orleans is like now, but I am sure it is still a great place to visit.

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  9. Those photos are amazingly beautiful, your husband is a very talented photographer. I could just look and look at them. I have never been to New Orleans but hope to go one day. And the book - I may try to get hold of that one, I've been meaning to try another since enjoying White Tulips. Great post Tracy.

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    1. Thanks, Moira. New Orleans was wonderful when we went there and I bet it has not changed that much (even after Katrina). The mystery in this book isn't the best, and Jean is not very participatory, but lots of mention of clothing and the atmosphere is done so well.

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  10. Tracy, excellent book and review, and lovely photographs. Thanks for sharing both. How do you find such books?!

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  11. Prashant, in this case, I cannot remember where I learned of this author. I was motivated by the two reviews I cited to search for a copy, but I had learned of the author earlier. I just learned of a new (to me) vintage author today (Max Murray). There are a lot of British authors I have not heard of.

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  12. Thanks for the comment at Margot’s Introducing … feature. Comments are always great to receive. Love your post on Frances Crane’s The Indigo Necklace. Great photos of the old buildings.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, B.C. I look forward to trying one of your books. Looking back at our pictures of that trip to New Orleans was a lot of fun.

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  13. I love Frances Crane but I've only read two of her books. I think the descriptions are wonderful in them, especially of the clothes etc.

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    1. I agree, Sarah. I want to read more of the books but I am pulled between getting new reprint editions or older ones with vintage covers (and possibly tiny print for my old eyes).

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  14. I've really enjoyed the Crane novels I've read so far (The Yellow Violet AND The Coral Princess Murders). I've got four more waiting on the TBR stacks for me. Can't wait to fit them in!

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    1. Bev, I am looking forward to reading more novels by Crane. I hope to find old paperback copies because some of them have great covers.

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