Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pub. Date: March 21st, 2017
Pages: 320


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.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I was blown away by Greer Macallister's debut novel, The Magician's Lie, and have been keeping an eye out for what she released next. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I won a copy of her next novel, Girl in Disguise, and, while I usually try to read an ARC of a book close to it's actual release date, I couldn't wait and dug right in as part of a buddy read with some other blogger friends. While I can't say that I loved Girl in Disguise as much as her debut, I still very much enjoyed this novel of a woman breaking all the rules in a field that doesn't seem to want her while also trying to remain true to who she really is.

Kate Warne is one gutsy woman. She pushes her way into the Pinkerton agency and demands a chance to prove her skills as a female detective when the agency has never had one before. She's smart, resourceful, and determined, and has to be twice as bold and twice as tough to get even a smidgeon of respect or acknowledgement from her male colleagues. However, she makes a powerful and very true point to Pinkerton: as a woman she can go into places and situations where a man never can and has a better chance of being trusted by informants, criminals and associates in situations where a man might seem suspicious. The rest of the novel is Kate's attempt to prove this very point beyond a shadow of a doubt as well as her realization that by being this incredible agent she might just lose touch with who she really is and what she wants from the rest of her life.

My favorite aspect of the story was by far watching Kate struggle to keep a part of herself when she became so skilled as an operative that she wasn't even sure sometimes who that was. I loved the fact that Kate's skills at deception and masquerade came from her wayward parents and the unconventional and sometimes cruel upbringing she was forced to endure. The fact that this comes back into play towards the end of the story makes it that much more intriguing and poignant given the context involved (I don't want to give too much away!).

Another aspect I very much enjoyed was seeing the Civil War from such a unique perspective. These operative are doing their part for the war and in just as much danger as a soldier on the front lines even if they are never known to anyone outside the agency. Seeing the behind the scenes machinations to protect Abraham Lincoln from what would become known as the Baltimore Plot to assassinate him was fascinating and something I had never even heard of before. The whole thing made me contemplate: what else might have happened behind the scenes with these sort of secret operatives that we will never even know about? It's a compelling thing to think about, especially since there is no way to find an answer!

The only real issue I had with the story was the sometimes rapid progression of time and, therefore, lack of detail given to some aspects of the story I would have preferred more deeply delved into. For instance, I would have preferred to learn more details about the actual training Kate and other detectives went through as well as more in-depth discussions of the development of some of the relationships between Kate and Pinkerton and her other associates. These aspects seemed kind of rushed, never more so than with the romantic relationship that develops quickly between Kate and one of her fellow detectives towards the end of the story. It felt rushed and underdeveloped, to the point where I didn't feel I had time to really care about the relationship or the eventual outcome. I really wanted to care, but I found myself caring more about how Kate would progress after than with what had occurred. I fully understand that edits and cuts have to be made before the book is finalized, however I would have preferred a slightly longer novel with more development.

Girl in Disguise is a wonderful piece of American historical fiction about a singular woman trying to make it in a man's world against unbelievable odds. I found her to be a fascinating woman and one I want to know more about. The author's note at the end of the book went someway to explain who she was and how little is actually known about her, so I fully place my appreciation for her in the capable hands of this extraordinary writer. I definitely recommend this to any fan of historical fiction.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I LOVE IT!!! This cover is simply gorgeous and the painted style and curving letters and swirls on the top half are mesmerizing. The cover art of the woman sitting on a train perfectly represents the story as well. Kate spends so much of the novel on trains, disguising herself as various women in the hopes of discovering the secrets her targets are hiding, so the sort of blurry quality of her face is spot on. I can't think of anything else I would prefer to see on this cover and, in person, it is pretty stunning.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I won my copy of Girl in Disguise in a giveaway hosted by the author on Twitter. All opinions are my own. You can find more reviews of the novel, as well as links to where you can purchase a copy for yourself, on Goodreads HERE (please note the novel does not release until March 21st, 2017).

As stated above I read this book as a buddy read with some other wonderful blogger friends. I'll link to their reviews below as they are written:

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