"The Brief Luminous Flight of the Firefly" by Ellen Byerrum: Review/Giveaway

 Review by Claire A. Murray

 Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it.

Something isn’t quite right for Mary Margaret “Mimi” Smith at the Chinquapin Village dance as the story opens. Through the early chapters, we get a picture of life in 1943 Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., through the eyes of women who lived and worked there. They held jobs normally reserved for men and proved their competence and prowess, yet continually had to prove themselves to men who did not or could not serve in the military. 

Outside of Mimi’s circle of young city and farm women who moved to the D.C. area to support the war effort, lived another class of women. Mimi had learned from her grandmother to call these prostitutes magdalens, but they were called much worse by others and even themselves. Mimi aids one magdalen, Kittie, at the dance when she is harassed by a group of servicemen, and thus begins a friendship that crosses barriers and sets Mimi on a course of discovery and danger. 

➡ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for more articles ⬅

Image Source Lethal Black Dress Press
Mimi views her stenography job at the Office of Price Administration (OPA) as a steppingstone to becoming an OPA investigator, tracking down black marketeering, price fixing, price gouging, and more. But her male boss claims she’s too young and new to achieve that goal. He vacillates between wanting to get credit for work the OPA does, which the public views as interfering with their happiness, and not taking any extra steps that might move an investigation out of his department. 

Despite this, Mimi pays close attention to the reports she reads and writes, which then provide her with information to begin piecing together supposedly unconnected events—the apparent suicide of a magdalen in Kittie’s circle, the murder of another, the disappearance of huge quantities of sugar kept by Mimi’s landlady to feed her bees over the winter, and other incidents. She makes friends easily but is never sure who might be an enemy. She is trusting, yet cautious.

Driven to help Kittie get out of the magdalen life and marry the flyboy to whom she’s engaged, once he returns from his tour of duty, Mimi is not sure the flyboy really exists. Her efforts lead her to West Virginia, where she meets Kittie’s family and long-ago beau, Josiah, and befriends a skeptical detective who listens more carefully than her boss. 

I won’t give away more, as it is best to let you read and anticipate what will happen next and who will prove to be friend or foe.

The Brief Luminous Flight of the Firefly is a prequel to Ellen Byerrum’s Crime of Fashion Mysteries and features Lacey Smithsonian’s great-aunt Mimi Smith. Byerrum did her research, and the book is full of references to what was then new to the D.C. area (buildings such as the OPA and Pentagon), as well as other historical tidbits—what was rationed or not and how they managed without coffee, sugar, or other items. This reader felt the vibe of 1943 through visual references as well as the songs and words. Yet the story itself is not old, as life repeats itself time and again.

Readers already familiar with the Crime of Fashion series will appreciate the connection between Mimi and Lacey as they learn of Mimi’s love for fashion, the origin of the trunk of mysteries, and the two women’s love of learning how a story ends, no matter how dangerous the journey. As for the title reference to fireflies, it’s best you read and discover that for yourself.

To enter to win a copy of The Brief Luminous Flight of the Firefly, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "firefly,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 27, 2021. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. BE AWARE THAT DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS THERE MAY BE A DELAY IN SHIPPING THE WINNING BOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new Christmas episode went up this week.

You can use this link to purchase the book or click here. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Claire A. Murray is a fiction writer who transplanted from New England to Arizona mid-pandemic. She has twelve published short stories with another coming out in January 2022, is completing a novella so she can return to her trilogy, and has two novels awaiting revision. Find her at cam-writes.com.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Love the time of this novel. I was a baby
    when this was happening. Should be
    interesting to hear about conditions at
    the time. thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. Sounds like a great read. Looking forward to reading the book.

  3. Another new author to me. Would really like to read.

  4. New author for me, sounds good! tWarner419@aol.com

  5. Always an interesting time period. And that beautiful title!

  6. Sounds like a really beautiful and interesting read! Claire.denning.11@gmail.com


Post a Comment