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Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Girl in Disguise

by Greer Macallister

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More reviews at TheBibliophage.com.

With Girl in Disguise, Greer Macallister brings us a rip-roaring heroine caught up in a tense and fast-moving world. I read the book in just over 24 hours, which is not normal for me. Definitely a fun, unputdownable choice!

Kate Warne is a widow in Chicago just before the Civil War. She’s not interested in the typical jobs available to support herself. Good thing, because they wouldn’t have made for such an interesting book. Instead, Kate applies for an operative’s position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. “The Boss” accepts her, and trains her himself. This much we know is actually true. Records also exist about a few of her cases. Macallister adds a few other characters who are historically accurate as well. The rest of the details in Girl in Disguise are historical fiction.

Kate’s is a crack investigator, who works hard to develop her skills. At times she acknowledges how lonely she is, but ultimately remains with few confidantes. She’s a career-driven woman in a time when that’s the rarest of aberrations. Macallister writes Kate as an intriguing character, and moves the plot from case to case at a perfect pace. While I found a few plot points somewhat predictable, that didn’t change my overall enjoyment of the book. I’d also enjoy reading more Kate stories in the future.

This marks the third book I’ve read this year set in the years just before the Civil War. It’s also the second book with Abraham Lincoln in it. Maybe I’m discovering a new trend, as I’ve found this era to be quite interesting historically. In the meantime, I’ll pick up the nonfiction book [b:Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War|18679391|Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy Four Women Undercover in the Civil War|Karen Abbott|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1395710606s/18679391.jpg|26470461] from my Kindle shelf. ( )
  TheBibliophage | Mar 20, 2018 |
Girl in Disguise, a book about the first the first female Pinkerton detective did sound like a fantastic book idea and I was thrilled to read it. I especially liked that the book is inspired by the real life on Kate Warne, a female Pinkerton detective who sadly we don't know much about.

I think the book started off good, with Kate Warne getting a chance at Pinkerton to prove that she has what it takes to be a Pinkerton detective. Her trials and tribulations you could say to prove that, despite being a woman, or actually because she is a woman that she could be a detective since she clearly demonstrated that some roles, well sometimes it takes a woman to do some jobs. However, I saw right from the start the obvious romance that would without any doubt occur later on in the book and to be totally honest that made me not that happy. I'm not against romance in books, well, not always, but in this case, it just didn't rub me the right way. Probably because I've seen it so many time before, man meets a woman, they dislike each other, but then they feel that they can't deny their growing attraction and wham bam thank you, mam!

Girl in Disguise is just not my kind of book, I even took a month long break from it and had a hard time getting inspired to return to it. It was not totally bad, I just felt that the characters never really came to life and that the storyline was too predictable in certain aspects. When the obvious romance part happened towards the end did my interested in the book fizzle out. I mean it's Civil War going on, and it should be a dangerous and intensive time for Kate and the rest of the Pinkerton, but I never felt that. Even when the story did take a surprise turn towards the end of the book did I feel anything for the characters. I was just bored.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Dec 14, 2017 |
It took me a while to get into this work; my beginning it timed up with a stretch where I didn't read that much due to the other aspects of life that intervened. So how long it took me to read this novel shouldn't reflect on how I ultimately felt about it. I enjoyed this look at an obscure female historical figure whose life reads like a James Bond novel. Near death getaways, the trials of detective work, and war make this book hard to put down. Once you're in there, you can’t get away.

I bet most people will hear the name Kate Warne and not know the significance of it. Yet, this woman blazed so many trails for women in law-enforcement, showing that just because she wore skirts didn't mean she couldn't think or shoot with the best of the men. The author does a great job in getting into Kate’s head, letting us see the woman behind the detective. While she's highly intelligent and earns the respect of her peers and Pinkerton himself, there's also a vulnerable side, a woman who wants a connection to family, friendship, or romance. The author does a fantastic job and balancing both aspects of this complex woman.

I loved getting into the nitty-gritty of Kate’s 19th century detective world as well. With no forensic evidence or fingerprints, the work of bringing justice and ferreting out information is much harder. Exploring the different, clever ways in which Kate and her colleagues went about their work was amazing. Their intelligence and acting skills were showcased to perfection. Then there were the difficulties Kate faced as a woman in this dark world. Having to work extra hard to gain the respect of her clients and fellow detectives, the world at large still feeling it abnormal, unnatural for a woman of her time. My heart went out to her every time she was faced with a slur or accusation; a woman truly ahead of her time.

As another reviewer pointed out, this novel contains a ton of life events that Kate experienced and that shaped her. There's enough material in here for a full series, I felt. Yet, the author chose to just provide really snapshots of Kate’s life. I felt like I wasn't getting as deep as I could have if this tale had been spread over multiple books. Maybe the book might have been better served focusing on a part of Kate’s timeline rather than her whole life? But then that has its own problems too. It probably speaks to the writing skills of the author overall that even though I only got my appetite whetted by a few of Kate’s life events, I still felt deeply connected to her.

Even though I personally felt like we could have gotten deeper to Kate’s life, I still found myself enthralled by this look at Kate Warne. She's an incredible woman, born before her time, whose intelligence, courage, and strength of will make her a figure for admiration. That's all balanced out with a very human vulnerable side that makes her very relatable. This book is a fantastic first look at this obscure historical figure. While I was left hungry for more, this book still stands out as a solid work. Definitely recommended reading.

Note: Book received for free via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Sarah_Gruwell | Sep 4, 2017 |
This historical fiction is based on the first female Pinkerton agent in the mid-1800’s. The settings are primarily Chicago and the South prior to and up through the Civil War. The documented historical events included the Pinkertons working as police for the railroads and their participation as spies on behalf of the Union during the war. Much of the narrative was fictional as the author explained there was very little information about Kate Warne other than the basic facts of her employment. I found it light, but entertaining providing some detective history that was new and interesting to me. Definitely adds to the canon of female historical figures who made their mark despite the customs of their day. ( )
  beebeereads | Aug 16, 2017 |
Girl in Disguise is the historical fiction story of Kate Warne who was hired by Allan Pinkerton and became the first female detective in America. When the story opens, Kate is a widow with no work experience. There aren't many options for women in that position in the 1850s, so she answers a Pinkerton Detective Agency advertisement in the local paper. Of course, Pinkerton refuses to hire her but she persuades him to give her a chance and goes on to have a long and successful career.

I'm not sure what I expected when I first started the book, probably more of a straightforward telling of her story. It turned out to be more of an episodic collection of several of her cases. Some of the cases are years apart so that was a bit disconcerting at first. I did feel like some of the characters were less developed than I would have liked, but by the time I was a third of the way through, I was really enjoying it.

The author's note at the end of the book was quite interesting and gave me a real appreciation for what an extraordinary woman Kate was. Even though it has some flaws, it's still a book I would recommend to fans of American historical fiction. Because many of the records that detailed her career at Pinkerton were lost in the Great Chicago fire, I did feel like the author created a believable story about Kate. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Aug 9, 2017 |
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Widowed and in need of a job, Kate Warne convinces Allan Pinkerton that a female detective can go places and do things a male detective cannot. Once hired, Kate becomes skilled at lock picking and surveillance, but she is best in disguise--as a prostitute, rich matron, spinster, clerk, Southern belle--an expert liar, playing a role. She investigates burglaries, bank robberies, embezzlement, counterfeiting, blackmail, and murder. Eventually earning the respect of her fellow detectives, Kate comes up with an ingenious plan to protect President Lincoln from a Southern assassination plot. During the Civil War, she must fight against a formidable adversary--notorious Southern spy Mrs. Rose Greenhow. Well-told and loaded with suspense and action, this historical novel about Kate Warne, the first female detective in 1850s Chicago, is superb.--… (more)

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