Nominated for a Reader's Choice Award as Best Historical Mystery
Nominated for a Lovey Award as Best Traditional Amateur Sleuth
“An engrossingly detailed read that brings the time period vividly to life in a way few authors are able to do and at the same time provides an excellent mystery tale that leaves the reader thinking long after the book is finished.” -- Epinions
Freddie Simpson is on top of the world. The year is 1894 and the cub reporter has been assigned to cover his first big story. The corpse of a factory girl is discovered floating in the Chicago River. The police believe she fell to her death through a faulty bridge guardrail. Freddie’s elation quickly turns to suspicion when he sees a vagrant hovering around the scene of the accident. The reporter wonders if the girl fell or if she was pushed through the railing.
Progressive Era Priorities
Freddie catches the first train to the suburbs to seek the assistance of his wealthy, eccentric friend Evangeline LeClair. The pair trapped a killer the year before and Freddie hopes Evangeline will help him investigate the girl’s death. Unfortunately, she’s already knee-deep in a civic investigation of her own.
The heiress not only teaches English to immigrants at a social settlement in the slums but she’s also been appointed to question disgruntled workers at the Pullman Palace Carworks just south of Chicago. Gilded Age tycoon George Pullman has refused arbitration and the Pullman labor strike has disrupted national train service. Roving mobs have torn up tracks, derailed trains and set fire to the remains of the White City fairgrounds. The situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
Dinner Party Doubts
Evangeline helps Freddie indirectly by inviting him to a dinner party hosted by Martin Allworthy - the owner of the factory where the drowned girl worked. The shocking guest of honor turns out to be the vagrant from the river – Desmond Bayne. He’s wearing fine new clothes and has just been hired as the supervisor of Martin’s factory. Freddie believes that Desmond is blackmailing Martin. But why? Evangeline still refuses to get involved. She insists the Pullman Strike must take priority.
Evangeline’s priorities shift radically once blackmail turns into murder. Martin’s wife is poisoned and a psychic medium named Serafina is blamed for the crime. The amateur sleuths both spring into action but exposing the real murderer proves trickier than they anticipate. The killer strikes again, this time targeting the one person who could clear Serafina’s name. Will the detectives run the culprit to ground? Against the backdrop of a city in flames, an innocent woman’s life is at stake.