Wednesday, March 22, 2017
With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin—unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective. Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency’s toughest investigations. But is the woman she’s becoming—capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses—the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was? -- Sourcebooks Landmark
I received a lot (and I mean a lot) of good books at last year's SIBA, but one of was really looking forward to was this historical fiction novel GIRL IN DISGUISE by Greer Macallister. This book tells a fictionalized account of Kate Warne, a woman who was the first female detective for the Pinkerton Agency in the mid 1800s. I don't read as much historical fiction as I used to, but this one really sounded fantastic.
GIRL IN DISGUISE begins when Kate Warne, a recent widow, finds herself in need of a job. She sees an ad that the famous Allan Pinkerton is hiring detectives, and she figures she should give it a shot. It says a great deal about Kate's personality and determination that she convinced the renowned detective to hire her!
Kate finds herself thrown into many cases because she's a woman -- she plays a ton of different roles including a fortune teller, a Southern belle, and even a caregiving sister; however, she also discovers that just being a woman immediately causes resentment among many of the men she works with. Kate is extremely tough, though; and she uses her acting abilities, as well as her skills at lying and deceit to solve many mysteries.
I adored GIRL IN DISGUISE, and I mean everything from the characters, to the storylines, to the writing. This book is epitomizes everything I love about historical fiction. Ms. Macallister took a real-life woman about which little is known, and she created a fantastic story surrounding her life. There were quite a few great stories that the author had to work with, including in one where she helped President Lincoln escape an assassination plot and another one where she was spy during the Civil War.
There are many great things about this novel, but I especially loved how Ms. Macallister chose to portray Kate. She was an exceptional woman who was extremely ahead of her time. That made for some entertaining stories about her career; however, she also gave Kate a lot of depth. Kate was actually fairly lonely much of her life due to the choices she made, and the author showed the toll it took on her state of mind and happiness. In addition, because Kate played so many roles, there was some confusion about who she really way and what were her motivations.
GIRL IN DISGUISE is Ms. Macallister's second novel, but the first one for me. Her first book is titled THE MAGICIAN'S LIE, and it sounds terrific too. After loving GIRL IN DISGUISE, I won't hesitate to pick up her first novel the next time I'm at the library!
All in all GIRL IN DISGUISE is a wonderfully written (and imagined!) story about an amazing woman. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction!
I received an autographed (yay!) copy of this novel at last year's SIBA.