25 Mar 2017

Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway – Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Title: Girl in Disguise

Author: Greer Macallister

Publication Date: March 22, 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

ISBN: 9781492635222 

Summary: Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective.

Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency's toughest investigations. But is the woman she's becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

My Thoughts:

Rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Girl in Disguise was a positive surprise for me. It exceeded my expectations, because I confess I thought it would be no more than a well-written, enjoyable but all-in-all average detective novel. That’s what I believed I’d get after having read Greer Macallister’s previous novel, The Magician’s Lie. I was mistaken. Greer Macallister did a very good job with her second novel.

There isn’t much data left for us that would give information about Kate Warne’s – the first female Pinkerton detective’s – activities and when I googled her name looking for pictures of her, I only found one or two photographs of a young man. The captions suggest the person on these pictures might be her, but I’m not convinced (was she that masculine? Well, who knows...).

Given the lack of information, Greer Macallister had an awful lot of freedom with this book, which she took advantage of and wrote something that can capture the attention of those who are interested in 19th century American history and also easily captivates the ones who like reading about female pioneers.

The first thing Kate Warne – our heroine – had to do after getting the job at the Pinkerton Detective Agency was to get herself accepted, that’s for sure. In the story most of the men don’t think it was a the greatest idea of Pinkerton to hire a woman and I have the feeling this wasn’t any different in reality.

Kate had to show she had skills that were needed for the job and she had to hammer some generalizations out of the male detectives’ head; for example, that women are too fragile or that they break down in every situation that generates emotions in them. The writer handled Kate’s early difficulties very well, these problems were interlaced with the earlier cases, through which Kate proved her professionalism to her peers.

The story isn’t told in one tight narrative; a period of Kate’s life is shown to us through the cases she dealt with. To tell the truth, for a while I didn’t believe it would build up to anything, but in the end I got a whole picture and I was satisfied.

The biggest cohesive chunk in the book was the Civil War part and that was the one I enjoyed the most (other than the parts with Lincoln in it. Did you know Kate Warne helped prevent an earlier assassination attempt against Lincoln? She practically smuggled the soon-to-be president from Baltimore to Washington D.C., so he could be inaugurated. Yeah, she was that cool).

During the Civil War the Pinkertons gathered intelligence and that was the most dangerous thing they ever had to do. Kate fought in her own way in the salons and dining rooms of suspected enemy spies, pretending, knowing if she got caught she would be in real trouble.

The romance that evolved between two agents in the story was unexpected, but welcomed from my part. A well-inserted and cleverly executed romance can never ruin a book.

There were only two things I wasn’t happy about. One was how Kate reacted when she found out that one of the detectives was gay. Could it really be that some adult people were that naïve and ignorant in that time they didn’t know gay people existed? Maybe, unfortunately I can imagine that. For her it seemed unnatural and she didn’t understand why the guy ‘did it’, which is a shame, but let’s attribute it to ignorance, shall we?

However, what I couldn’t tolerate for the life of me was when she decided to involve the same guy in a case in which he had to seduce a woman and she deliberately asked Pinkerton to send him. He was the best looking agent and therefore fit for the job, although I can’t help but think she wanted to ‘cure’ him somehow with this little affair and that was unsettling to say the least.

If I don’t count the character’s above mentioned flaw, I would say I liked Kate. However, for some reason with Macallister’s novels I always feel there is a transparent wall between me and her characters. I see them, I like what they do, I can even take a liking to their person, but I can never get close enough. If she writes another book, I’d like to see that wall shatter.

Overall, there was a lot of action, fascinating detective work, a good amount of travelling... it was a thrilling adventure from start to finish.

The Author’s note says this novel is a love story between a woman and her work and I couldn’t agree more. Kate Warne is a historical character that can inspire people, especially women and I’m glad I was introduced to her through this book.

Praise for Girl in Disguise

"The best book I read in 2016 hasn't been published yet. Historical fiction at its best... a rollocking tale." – Publishers Weekly

"Electrifying... a rollocking nineteenth-century thrill ride." – Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun

"An exciting, well-crafted historical novel. Loaded with suspense and action, this a well-told, superb story." – Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

"You're going to devour GIRL IN DISGUISE." – Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue

"A celebration of a singual woman's life that's guided by facts but features some inviting imaginings". – Kirkus

"Macallister's story is a rip-roaring, fast-paced treat to read, with compelling characters, twisted villains, and mounds of historical details adeptly woven into the tale of a courageous woman who loves her job more than anything or anyone else." - Booklist

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2kZhRXu
Books a Million: http://bit.ly/2kxpkzn
Indiebound: http://bit.ly/2kxs001

About the Author:

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist whose work has appeared in publications such as The North American Review, The Missouri Review, and The Messenger. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. She lives with her family in Brooklyn. 

Social Media Links:
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2kFpk0y

Rafflecopter Giveaway Link for 3 Copies of Girl in Disguise + The Magician’s Lie.   Runs March 1-31 (US & Canada only)

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