It’s December 1942 and Betty Ahern is enjoying her fledgling career as a private detective, investigating everything from missing jewelry to wandering boyfriends. But when Bell Airplane co-worker Emilia Brewka, whose grandmother recently died, wants Betty to prove the death was murder and not natural causes, Betty thinks Emilia’s grief has her seeing things that aren’t there.
After a member of the visiting Polish government in exile is murdered, she learns the grandmother may have contacted him about a secret involving a wealthy Buffalo family–a secret that goes all the way back to the Old Country and the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war. Suddenly, murder looks more than possible.
Betty and her friends travel between Buffalo’s working-class neighborhoods and the city’s high society, determined to unearth the secret and find justice for Emmie’s grandmother. But mixing with the upper class quickly becomes dangerous and potentially deadly—both for Betty’s career as a detective and herself.
Think World War II, 1940s, and at home, women have replaced many men in the factories. As a point in history, the war opened doors for women to work and to think outside the box. Betty Ahern is one of these women. She's working in the factory building planes and leaving her mark on the part she adds. She also likes to think of herself as a solver of mysteries, much like her fictional idols. When a co-worker seeks her out, Betty is ready to find a lost item as she's done in the past. Only the co-worker's focus is on her grandmother's death and she's sure it was foul play. Betty agrees to investigate, along with her friends, Dot and Lee. A link they discover leads to a dead end and another murder, this one not questionable. Betty pursues her leads and the body count rises.
Milliron did a nice job of capturing the ambivalence around women working in the factories or any where else men would have been if not for the war. The characters express the worry and concerns of those left at home for their loved ones. For Betty, that's her brother and boyfriend.
The story is well-written, well-paced, and there are enough twists to keep the reader guessing. Betty is a memorable character with ambitions and caring for others. This book is easily read as a stand-alone mystery. There's history, humility, and humor, as well as a mystery to be solved.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.