Review: Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal. Sourcebooks Landmark

This book takes us to New York /City in 1916, where there were a great many historical threads at work. The heroine of the story is pretty, dark-haired Capability “Kitty” Weeks, age 19 (20 in May), who is pursuing a daring (for the time) position as a journalist for the New York City Sentinel (writing for the Women’s Page, of course). Kitty is a gently-raised young lady living with her affluent and prominent father. She walks a fine line between maintaining her place as a young lady while her enquiring mind and courageous spirit urges her toward learning more about her world. She lives with her father, Julian Weeks; her mother had died when Kitty was just an infant and her father had placed her in the care of excellent boarding schools in Switzerland. Now out of school, she still lives with her father and tries her best to be a dutiful daughter while pursuing her lively interests.

Kitty’s current assignment from her editor, Helena Busby, is to write a feature article on the prestigious Westfield Hall, reputed to be one of the finest girls’ academies in the country.

Kitty herself had ten years’ experience in boarding school in Switzerland, and is attentive and receptive to Miss Howe-Jones, headmistress of Westfield. She is pleased to meet Georgina, the head girl, and also has an encounter with Elspeth Bright, aptly named student deep into scientific studies. But this visit is soon followed by tragedy when the brilliant Elspeth is found dead, apparently having frozen while sleepwalking. This unnerving turn of events gets Kitty’s attention, and she soon finds herself drawn into several threads of inquiry.

In the course of this story, we learn a great deal about New York, and indeed the United States, in 1916–and the notable ways our worldview has changed over the past century. We are reminded of important topics and how time has changed our society in ways we have forgotten. Women suffrage we now take for granted and fail to recall the valiant efforts of many courageous women who fought the good fight to secure this for all of us. The pioneering efforts of Margaret Sanger are addressed. We learn that past president Theodore Roosevelt noted that in 1916 the U.S. Navy was ranked 17th in the world; Teddy thought it would be well for our Navy to be second only to that of Great Britain (!).   We also discover the critical importance of batteries in submarines. This is quite obviously a meticulously researched and informative book that also manages to draw us into the world of young Kitty Weeks. There is much food for thought here, clothed in an engrossing and appealing story.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Coming May 5: Special BLOG TOUR with more about this book and a solve-the-mystery puzzle.

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