As a long-time fan of Murdoch Mysteries, I was pleased to see another Canadian mystery series. The Frankie Drake series, which starts out in the year 1922, seems to more reflect current sensibilities and so it doesn't feel "real" as a historical series. But, on the other hand, it is full of spirit and liveliness and, what the heck. I know that whether you're talking civil rights or women's rights or workers' rights, there were always true trailblazers who beat the odds long before there were movements.
This is a mystery series, so there are murders, but it is not a gritty in-your-face show. It has lots of humor and dashes of silliness. I have a DVD of Season 1, and on it, the episodes do not have titles. I'll use the titles given on wikipedia for the heck of it. As with "Murdoch Mysteries", real people sometimes make their way into the stories.
A good detective has friends in many places. For Frankie, that includes Trudy Clarke, Frankie's right hand. Then there's Flo, who works in the city morgue and Mary Shaw, a police Morality Officer. Welcome to Toronto, Canada! And wait for it – there's a guest appearance by a favorite character from "Murdoch Mysteries."
...episode 1... "Mother of Pearl" Abe and Nora Amory, from Pittsburgh, PA, are staying at the swanky Crown Ascot Hotel in Toronto. Abe is hosting an important dinner with Canadians he think will enable his company, Armory Steel, to expand into Toronto. The finishing touch on Nora's wardrobe is a necklace of pearls worth $100,000. But when Abe opens the wall safe in their room, the jewelry box is empty, except for the feather of a drake.
A drake feather used to be the calling card of Frankie's father, a con man dead for 10 years, rather like Flambeau's glove in "Father Brown". The police don't believe Frankie had nothing to do with the pearl theft: "The feather doesn't fall far from the drake." Frankie's only option for saving herself and her brand new detective agency is to find the thief herself.
Real Person: Ernest Hemingway, journalist. He really did work for the Toronto Star in the 1920s for a couple years.
...episode 2... "Ladies in Red" Frankie, Trudy and Flo see a man with a stocking over his head moving through a house holding a pistol. They rush into the house (as would anybody) to scare away two bad guys and rescue the tied up family members. Mr. Conroyd hires Frankie to find the criminals.
Real Institution: The Toronto Police Morality Department was in force from 1886 – 1930s, ostensibly formed to counter crimes that especially harmed woman and children (and it actually did some of that).
...episode 3... "Summer in the City" Francis's personal life is center, as her friend and more, Moses Page, prepares to leave for Chicago for a boxing match with Jack Dempsey. But her goodbyes are interrupted when Eric Morrison wins a car in a poker game, only to find a dead man in the trunk.
Real Person: Dempsey doesn't appear in the episode, but he was in his prime in 1922, as World Heavyweight Champion from 1919 to 1926.
Trivia: Lauren Lee Smith, as Frankie, rides a red motorcycle made by Janus Motorcycles, out of Indiana. It's a boutique manufacturer intent on making "simple" bikes that harken back to years like the 1920s.
...episode 4... "Healing Hands" Trudy and her Mom go to church where Elsie Thompson, the pastor's daughter, is a faith healer. In the middle of a session, though, Elsie suddenly gets upset and rushes out. Then she disappears.
...episode 5... "Out of Focus" Film director Mack Sennett is making a movie at a Toronto beach resort. When watching the day's rushes, he notices something odd in the background. He runs a projector for Frankie and Trudy, and in a shaded balcony in the rear of the scene, a man shoots someone with a revolver. Frankie asks, "That's not part of the movie?"
Mack: "If Mack Sennett scripted a murder, it would be lit and it would be hilarious."
Real Person: Mack "Keystone Cops" Sennett was born in Quebec, Canada. He and his family left for NYC in 1897 when he was 17, and he went from there to Hollywood. He did return to Canada in the 1930s after his career went bust in CA (the talkies done him in).
...episode 6... "Whisper Sisters" One of Frankie's favorite hangouts is Quon's, a restaurant run by Wendy and her son Hung Fah, or Harry Jr. One day the brothers Gino and Giuseppe "Joe" Perry come in and the arrogant Joe ends with shooting up the place, including injuring Harry Jr. Protection money and bootlegging – a dangerous world to investigate.
...episode 7... "Ties That Bind" Jenny Smith teaches English for the Chinese Charitable Society. The class ends late, and Mr. Lee offers to escort her to the streetcar. She demurs, "Thank you, I'll be fine.... I'm a city girl." And then she disappears.
...episode 8... "The Pilot" Phillip Anderson is an internationally celebrated pilot and "all-round golden boy", who settled down and built his own aerodome. Frankie and Trudy take the day off for an airshow and are on hand when someone tries a kidnapping.
Trivia: The comparison to Charles Lindbergh is obvious. He was a passionate believer in eugenics.
...episode 9... "Ghosts" Elspeth Burton hires Frankie. Her husband, Grant, has been pushing her away, and she wants to know why. It turns out much more dangerous than your average marriage problem.
...episode 10.. "Anastasia" The wealthy Louisa Winchester loves all things Russian, as her father had been Ambassador to Russia when she was a girl. So it's not surprising that she has guests, three Cossacks and Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. But Louisa is wealthy, not stupid, and she hires Frankie to determine if Anastasia is the real thing.
Real Person: You probably know that it wasn't until 2007 that two bodies were discovered buried separately from the rest of the royal family. DNA testing proved that Anastasia was dead, undoubtedly since 1916. Incidentally, the Yekaterinburg house in which the family lived and were executed was just torn down a few years ago. The authorities were tired of people visiting to see the bullet holes in the walls.
...episode 11.. "Once Burnt Twice Spied" We know that Frankie was a dispatch rider in WWI. It turns out she was more than that, and in this episode she's recalled to service.
The 11 episodes of Season 1 total almost 8 hours. If you buy it on disc, English subtitles are available, but there are no Bonus Extras. Season 1 originally aired November, 2017, through February 2018. Season 2 originally aired September through November 2018.