Pinkerton detective Jennifer Layne is no stranger to undercover work. But posing as a lady companion named Amy at Miss Lillian’s Parlor House and Boots is a first for her. She’s finally landed a high-profile case and is on the trail of the notorious Gunnysack Bandit, when one of Miss Lillian’s girls essential to her investigation meets an untimely demise. Only a handful of people are in the house at the time of her death, including handsome Tom Colton, a former Texas Ranger determined to clear his brother’s name. Amy has many reasons to suspect Tom of murder—and one very personal reason to hope that she’s wrong about him.
Margaret Brownley’s new Undercover Ladies series begins with a case of mistaken identity in an 1883 Kansas town. Tom Colton thinks he’s meeting his dead brother’s girlfriend in her room at the Parlor House. But the real girl has the room across the hall and she’s killed before he can realize his mistake. He’s mad enough to blame the woman he was speaking with, Amy, for missing the opportunity to learn how his brother died. He coerces Amy into assisting his search for answers, little knowing that she’s one of the Pinkerton agency’s crack female detectives.
Petticoat Detective is a fun and breezy romance built around a mystery. The town’s businesses do double duty: as well as the Parlor House and Boots there’s Joe’s Funeral Parlor and Lending Library (“Read where it’s quiet.”), and another company deals in both insurance and haberdashery. Sadly, there were a couple of things that bugged me, such as the numerous mentions of Amy/Jennifer’s previous cases and the various criminals she’d captured. There was also the problem of her name. For the majority of the novel, the heroine goes by her undercover name of Amy. There is, however, a section of the plot – a section I felt superfluous to the novel as a whole – where she goes by her real name.
The characters are varied and provoke various feelings. The two main characters are attracted to each other but believe nothing can or should come of their relationship, which I found slightly frustrating. Through Brownley’s writing, it’s possible to feel sympathetic toward Miss Lillian and her girls, and get an idea of the ostracism they faced in town. There are also three church ladies who have their eyes opened during the course of the story when they find themselves in the middle of a stakeout!
Thank you to Barbour Publishing for my complementary electronic Advance Reader Copy of Petticoat Detective. It was downloaded from NetGalley and no review was required.
Do you plan to read to read Petticoat Detective? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press (a division of Barbour Publishing)
Publication Date: 01 December 2014
Page Count: 320