by Greer MacAllister
Page Count: 308
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Format: EBook ARC
How got: ARC via NetGalley
First attention getter: book about Kate Warne
For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not.
In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.
Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can't. She's a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she's been assigned to nab.
Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.
Star Rating - 4
It took me a while to get into this work; my beginning it timed up with a stretch where I didn't read that much due to the other aspects of life that intervened. So how long it took me to read this novel shouldn't reflect on how I ultimately felt about it. I enjoyed this look at an obscure female historical figure whose life reads like a James Bond novel. Near death getaways, the trials of detective work, and war make this book hard to put down. Once you're in there, you can’t get away.
I bet most people will hear the name Kate Warne and not know the significance of it. Yet, this woman blazed so many trails for women in law-enforcement, showing that just because she wore skirts didn't mean she couldn't think or shoot with the best of the men. The author does a great job in getting into Kate’s head, letting us see the woman behind the detective. While she's highly intelligent and earns the respect of her peers and Pinkerton himself, there's also a vulnerable side, a woman who wants a connection to family, friendship, or romance. The author does a fantastic job and balancing both aspects of this complex woman.
I loved getting into the nitty-gritty of Kate’s 19th century detective world as well. With no forensic evidence or fingerprints, the work of bringing justice and ferreting out information is much harder. Exploring the different, clever ways in which Kate and her colleagues went about their work was amazing. Their intelligence and acting skills were showcased to perfection. Then there were the difficulties Kate faced as a woman in this dark world. Having to work extra hard to gain the respect of her clients and fellow detectives, the world at large still feeling it abnormal, unnatural for a woman of her time. My heart went out to her every time she was faced with a slur or accusation; a woman truly ahead of her time.
As another reviewer pointed out, this novel contains a ton of life events that Kate experienced and that shaped her. There's enough material in here for a full series, I felt. Yet, the author chose to just provide really snapshots of Kate’s life. I felt like I wasn't getting as deep as I could have if this tale had been spread over multiple books. Maybe the book might have been better served focusing on a part of Kate’s timeline rather than her whole life? But then that has its own problems too. It probably speaks to the writing skills of the author overall that even though I only got my appetite whetted by a few of Kate’s life events, I still felt deeply connected to her.
Even though I personally felt like we could have gotten deeper to Kate’s life, I still found myself enthralled by this look at Kate Warne. She's an incredible woman, born before her time, whose intelligence, courage, and strength of will make her a figure for admiration. That's all balanced out with a very human vulnerable side that makes her very relatable. This book is a fantastic first look at this obscure historical figure. While I was left hungry for more, this book still stands out as a solid work. Definitely recommended reading.
Note: Book received for free via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.