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The War Against Miss Winter by Kathryn…
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The War Against Miss Winter (edition 2007)

by Kathryn Miller Haines

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145682,607 (3.42)21
christina_reads's review
Rosie Winter is a down-and-out actress trying to make it in 1942 New York. Though she currently lives in a boarding house along with her best friend Jayne, she’ll soon be kicked out since she hasn’t booked a job in months. In order to make ends meet, Rosie has been moonlighting as a secretary with a private detective agency. However, she is forced to do some detecting of her own when she finds her boss dead in his office. The police think it’s a suicide, but Rosie believes it could be murder. Her subsequent investigations reveal that an incredibly significant play has gone missing, and several parties with dubious motives are on its trail. But can Rosie find a murderer and pursue her acting career, all without being killed herself?

The first thing about this book to catch my eye was Rosie’s noir-style narration. Her glib, cynical tone immediately got me in the mood for a darkly humorous mystery full of tough-talking dames and mafia thugs with hearts of gold. Fortunately, the book delivers all that and more. Rosie’s no-nonsense demeanor masks some internal vulnerability, but she never lets that get in the way of doing her job. I don’t know that I’d call her likeable – she’s a bit prickly for that – but she’s definitely a compelling character to read about. I also liked the book’s approach to its World War II setting. I find that most books set in this time period end up being all about the war. Here, it’s not exploited for any kind of emotional payoff; it’s merely the grim backdrop to Rosie’s everyday life.

Finally, I have to say that this is one of the best-plotted mysteries I have ever read. At first I was worried that there were too many distractions from the main issue of finding the murderer. There are some (seeming) detours into Rosie’s romantic background, her acting career, and her best friend Jayne’s romantic turmoil. But all my fears proved completely groundless as I was treated to one of the most dramatic reveals I’ve ever encountered. Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the setting or the characters, the last few chapters alone would have made the entire book worth it. I will definitely be tracking down the rest of this series to see where Rosie and her friends will go from here!
6 vote christina_reads | May 16, 2012 |
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Showing 6 of 6
Reviewed by Sabrina Williams: It is incredibly satisfying to discover new authors with a flair for fiction that typically denotes decades of publishing under the belt. In one such exceptional debut novel, The War Against Miss Winter, actor and playwright Kathryn Miller Haines introduces readers to Rosie Winter, aspiring actress, part-time file clerk, and amateur sleuth. Rosie takes on a job keeping books for a private detective to make ends meet in between acting jobs. When she has the unpleasant experience of finding her boss Jim's dead body in the office after a holiday break, she finds herself being forced from all directions into resuming Jim's work and recovering a missing play manuscript that may very well be the cause of his death. Rosie is not alone in her quest and the person who shares a common goal is willing to commit murder under the watch of a corrupt legal system to achieve it.


Readers will immediately find Rosie endearing. She is funny, smart, sarcastic and sassy: a feminist before her time. She stands tough against the many shady characters she encounters, ignoring obvious threats to her survival. Who can't respect a woman who can sit down and offer a doughnut to a mob henchman who's been tailing her? She makes it difficult to say goodbye to The War Against Miss Winter when the adventure is over. We can rest assured, she'll be back with another mystery in 2008, The Winter of Her Discontent. Hopefully there are many more adventures in store.


On a more somber note, with The War Against Miss Winter being set in 1943 in the midst of World War II, Haines captures the turmoil brewing in a society paranoid that the enemy lurks around every corner. Citizens struggle with rationing, moral dilemmas in what would otherwise be mundane daily activities, the emotion of sending loved ones off to war, and the devastation of loss as soldiers inevitably succumb to the perils of battle. Rosie can't walk a block without seeing a war poster or some reminder of the conflict overseas. Finding the manuscript almost becomes a way of distracting her attention from the fact that her own boyfriend has shipped out without a letter or a goodbye.


Haines has created a novel that not only provides a perplexing journey, but actively engages the reader in solving the mystery. This is the type of story that causes the mind to wander with possibilities as it progresses, eager to solve the crime. The characters could have stepped right out of the screen of a classic black and white detective flick, complete with drama and slang. This reviewer will be eagerly awaiting the next installment of Rosie's adventures.
  lonepalm | Feb 5, 2014 |
Rosie Winter is a down-and-out actress trying to make it in 1942 New York. Though she currently lives in a boarding house along with her best friend Jayne, she’ll soon be kicked out since she hasn’t booked a job in months. In order to make ends meet, Rosie has been moonlighting as a secretary with a private detective agency. However, she is forced to do some detecting of her own when she finds her boss dead in his office. The police think it’s a suicide, but Rosie believes it could be murder. Her subsequent investigations reveal that an incredibly significant play has gone missing, and several parties with dubious motives are on its trail. But can Rosie find a murderer and pursue her acting career, all without being killed herself?

The first thing about this book to catch my eye was Rosie’s noir-style narration. Her glib, cynical tone immediately got me in the mood for a darkly humorous mystery full of tough-talking dames and mafia thugs with hearts of gold. Fortunately, the book delivers all that and more. Rosie’s no-nonsense demeanor masks some internal vulnerability, but she never lets that get in the way of doing her job. I don’t know that I’d call her likeable – she’s a bit prickly for that – but she’s definitely a compelling character to read about. I also liked the book’s approach to its World War II setting. I find that most books set in this time period end up being all about the war. Here, it’s not exploited for any kind of emotional payoff; it’s merely the grim backdrop to Rosie’s everyday life.

Finally, I have to say that this is one of the best-plotted mysteries I have ever read. At first I was worried that there were too many distractions from the main issue of finding the murderer. There are some (seeming) detours into Rosie’s romantic background, her acting career, and her best friend Jayne’s romantic turmoil. But all my fears proved completely groundless as I was treated to one of the most dramatic reveals I’ve ever encountered. Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the setting or the characters, the last few chapters alone would have made the entire book worth it. I will definitely be tracking down the rest of this series to see where Rosie and her friends will go from here!
6 vote christina_reads | May 16, 2012 |
At times, I read in phases. Recently I went through an urban fantasy phase; now and then I'll be stuck in a gaslight phase and wind up reading all of Anne Perry again. (Or avoiding Anne Perry in search of something new.) For a little while (as long as I could find books to fit it), thanks to James R. Benn, I was in a WWII phase. A Mortal Terror was an excellent murder mystery set in the midst of battle in Italy in 1943; Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime, by John Dunning, was set in 1944 in New Jersey. When I finished that, after spending a few minutes marveling that there have been so few (if any -?) fantasies set in WWII – what could be more fun to write than a pack of werewolves on the front lines, or a wizard supporting the resistance? – and in fact that I have so little fiction at all set during WWII, I remembered receiving The War Against Miss Winter. I'm fairly certain this was featured on the Stop You're Killing Me site, and that on having a credit available on pbs I took a chance on it based on the SYKM review. 1943's WWII homefront, theatre, murder – sounded good.

It wasn't good. It was very good. It was so much more fun than I expected. I, in case I haven't been clear, really enjoyed it.

It took a minute. I had my doubts about an aspiring actress working as the secretary in a private eye's office – that strays into the world of the ludicrous – but by the time she found her boss, Sam McCain, hanged in his office I was hooked. The world-building, or world-recreation, feels thorough and genuine: Rosie's world is one very much at war, and the effects of that are everywhere. There has to have been a tremendous amount of painstaking research behind this – it shows, in every good way. The setting is everything I could have wanted – the Home Front of the War is utilized to the fullest.

Rosie's best friend Jayne reminded me of Stacy from Drop Dead Diva – all the appearance of being the beautiful dumb blonde and very little of the reality. Jayne broke my heart, made me scared for her, and was generally a terrific friend and terrific character. Rosie herself is flawed, and knows it; she's tough, as a girl has to be chasing a dream in New York in any era – but maybe a little too tough. She's not willing to let anything get through to her, and that takes in the good as well as the bad. The book is told in the first-person, and I don't think the line Rosie walks is easy to pull off in that voice – it's great work.

I kept expecting each of the men in the story to sweep Rosie off her feet and take her mind off Jack, the actor she had been seeing who abruptly went off to war, who left without saying goodbye. My money was on Al the bodyguard; I think most stories would have painted him as the initial impression he gives – a mob thug – and left the portrait there, with no depth at all. But he's kind of awesome too. In fact, nobody is simply what he (or she) first appears; there are first impressions, then second impressions, then the learned reality, and always room for surprises. Kathryn Miller Haines plays clichés like cheap violins (to coin a cliché). Oh, well, there's the girl who appears to be a bitch and really is; and that's wonderful too, because I kept expecting it to take a conventional turn and reveal her to have a heart of gold. Nope: she's a bitch. With some reasons, and occasional softer moments, but the latter are usually a trap: she's still a bitch.

The plot didn't go as might have been expected either. The mystery tangles around the mob and the theatre and extramarital affairs, and Rosie works her way through it while understudying in a true stinker of an avant-garde show. She never quite pushes the boundaries of what is believable of a young woman of her place and time and abilities – and she has a lot of help along the way. It's a lovely book, and a solid, hopeful start to a series. ( )
  Stewartry | Apr 11, 2012 |
Rosie is an actress. At least, that's what she'd like to be. But she hasn't had a part in ages. At least she has her job at the detective agency. Until her boss is found hanging dead in the closet. Now Rosie is really in trouble. But some of the agency's less than respectable clients are after her to continue her boss's investigation into a missing play. And now someone is willing to kill to find it.

I enjoyed this book, but some things about it bothered me. I liked Rosie and her roommate Jayne. The underworld angle worked, and so did the theatrical angle. But for some reason, the dialogue didn't work. Rosie didn't sound very authentic to me. Some parts of the plot seemed a little clunky. The writing just needs some work. However, I enjoyed it enough that I would like to try the second book, The Winter of Her Discontent. ( )
1 vote cmbohn | Oct 15, 2010 |
Surely one of the trickier aspects of writing historical fiction is knowning how much 'history' readers will enjoy. I grew up watching black and white '40's films on the TV matinees and I'm cognisant of the slang, but this was major overkill. May I suggest that you read a few pages before you buy? ( )
  dianaleez | Feb 28, 2009 |
Good period piece about Rosie Winter, an aspiring actress who works for a private detective during wwii. When she finds her boss dead, she has to investigate even though more bodies appear and people are not who they seem. ( )
  bkladyatl | Dec 14, 2007 |
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