Saturday, July 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: An Untimely Frost by Penny Richards

I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

There is a new historical mystery series out soon that features a female Pinkerton Detective. Thanks to Netgalley, I was able to read the first book: An Untimely Frost, by Penny Richards.

Set in Chicago in the late 1800s, the novel introduces us to the fledgling mystery-solver, Lilly Warner (Long-- maiden name?). Lilly is a young actress in a small theater company that is managed by the man and woman who essentially raised her. Lilly is also an orphan. (She doesn’t know her father but does know that her mother was murdered by a lover. Lilly was a young girl at the time, hiding under the bed.)

As the novel opens, Lilly has just been abandoned by her four-months husband, a no-good scoundrel and con artist who has stolen her life savings. Lilly has good reason to think poorly of men, and spends a lot of time in the novel reminding herself of it.

While debating what to do next, Lilly comes across an advertisement for women interested in joining the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Figuring her acting skills (which include handling a pistol and a sword) will serve her well in such a job, and armed with the conviction that most cases needing to be solved involve men who have mistreated women, she applies for the job in order to help others. She knows she won’t find her husband or the man who murdered her mother, but she does think she can find satisfaction from stopping other men from hurting other women.

Lilly gets the job. Her first assignment seems mundane. She is to track down the owners of an abandoned house in a small town called Vandalia, a preacher and his wife, who have disappeared. A couple wants to buy the house but has been unable to locate the previous owners. Lilly sets out for Vandalia, a little disappointed that the job is so dull, but certain she can succeed.

The job is more difficult than she expects. Along the way, she discovers a trail of embezzlement, concealment of wrongdoing by suspicious, injured townspeople, and probable murder. Plus, someone is following her. And, someone may be trying to kill her.

Lilly is a plucky protagonist. Some of the plot is a bit farfetched, but not enough to detract from the storyline. The reader can anticipate some of the developments before Lilly catches on, but she is young and naive, and this case is a learning experience for her. An incipient love interest shows up, but development along that front will have to await future installments. I expect to hear more from Lilly!

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