A Front Page Affair
Kitty (short for “Capability”) is a fish out of water no matter where she goes in 1915 New York City. Her father is her only relative, and he’s mysterious about his business. She’s got enough money to hang with her high society friend, but not the family background, particularly since she was born abroad. She wants to be a journalist, but for now, she’s just an assistant for the society pages.
When she attends her first assignment, to report on a country club Fourth of July party, her career changes, as one of the guests is found murdered. No one much liked Hunter Cole, particularly once he married a dance-hall girl, but he knew enough of the right people to keep getting invitations to these kinds of events.
He’s found in the stables, shot through the head, and because Kitty was on the scene, she gets to work with the news reporters to provide background. Although no one wants to pay much attention to her, she keeps asking questions to get to the bottom of what happened, the solution of which eventually involves patent law, international espionage, the Secret Service, workplace competition, high-society biases, and the role of women in a society preparing for war.
Vatsal’s writing is straightforward, without a lot of flair or distinction, but she tells a story that kept me reading to find out what would happen next. I’d probably call it a thriller more than a mystery, since I don’t think it’s possible to deduce the entire plot from the clues we’re given, but “thriller” implies more violence than we see here.
Vatsal has clearly done her research, working real-life news events — the recent sinking of the Lusitania, the attempted murder of financier J.P. Morgan that’s thrown the upper crust into a tizzy — into the background of her story. America’s attempt to stay neutral in the face of global disruption is a key point, since one of the plot elements involves the growing bias against Germans. The book even includes a research bibliography, reading group questions, and background on the author.
A sequel, Murder Between the Lines, is due out next May.