By Tall Poppy Writer, Nicole Baart
To say that I am an eclectic reader is a bit of an understatement. I love everything from Kahlil Gibran to Sarah Addison Allen, Bill Watterson (I mean, who isn’t crazy about Bill?) to Leo Tolstoy. But this doesn’t mean I’m not a discerning reader, and after decades (but who’s counting?) of being a bonafide bookaholic, I have an uncanny ability to know within a few sentences whether or not a novel is going to be my cup of tea. It didn’t take me long to realize that Greer Macallister’s latest historical, THE GIRL IN DISGUISE, was exactly the right sort of book for me.
From page one, Greer embroils her readers in mystery and intrigue. We meet the tenacious Kate Warne in a stinky tavern on a hot summer night in Chiacgo. She’s on a mission, far outside of her element, and doing everything in her power to give off the impression that she is anything but a decent, respectable woman. (Though as a recent widow and the daughter of a pair of con artists, maybe the role is not as difficult to pull off as first imagined.) Turns out, Kate’s so good at pretending that the legendary Allan Pinkerton gives her a job as the very first female detective.
What ensues is a wild ride that mixes fact with fiction and brings the illustrious Kate to life. She’s quick-witted and sharp, the sort of heroine who quickly manages to earn our admiration. Her self-control and persistence in the face of both skepticism and downright antagonism is endearing, and it’s impossible not to cheer her on. But Kate is far from perfect, and it’s her flaws that make her a successful sojourner and a trailblazer, a woman who breaks glass ceilings long before anyone bothers to realize that there are glass ceilings to break.
Kate is an unforgettable protagonist, but for me, the best part of THE GIRL IN DISGUISE is the way Greer so expertly weaves historical elements into a work of fiction. As real-life characters made appearances on the page, I found myself wanting to learn more about the story behind the story. And when the timeline intersected with the Civil War, THE GIRL IN DISGUISE took on a gravity that kept me frantically turning pages.
Beautiful prose, a compelling plot, and a memorable character make THE GIRL IN DISGUISE a five-star book. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
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.
Nicole Baart is the mother of four children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, The Beautiful Daughters. Find out more at NicoleBaart.com.