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by Radha Vatsal
Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2016
336 pages
ISBN: 149263266X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Capability "Kitty" Weeks is a 19-year-old neophyte journalist who works on the Ladies' Page at the New York Sentinel. Finally, after months of opening mail and judging cookery contests, she gets her first assignment: to cover a big Independence Day gala party at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. But amid the fireworks, a man is shot to death at the stables.

She quickly phones the City Desk with the news. Since she was at the scene, the City Desk, an all-male bastion (it is the year 1915, after all), enlists Kitty's help in gathering more information. It could be the big break Kitty needs, but her attention is diverted when her father applies for a passport and questions arise about his background, as well as his current business dealings. Suddenly, the Secret Service is investigating—and putting pressure on Kitty to find answers. Kitty, who has never been privy to her father's business, now finds she doesn't really know much about his dealings, or even her father's past.

At a time when most career women are spinsters and she is still expected by her widowed father to run the household, Kitty faces some hard decisions. She seems to be invested in becoming a journalist and her heroes are some of the early female journalists. Unfortunately, some of her actions come across as puzzling, at the very least. She runs out of the newsroom at a crucial point and doesn't tell the City Desk about an important interview she's conducted with a murder suspect. Kitty's likability drops with each blunder. While she does eventually solve the murder, the mystery plot itself is a bit weak, and the killer is no big surprise.

A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR succeeds better on the historical front. It is packed with interesting tidbits, from the shooting of J.P. Morgan at his mansion and the sinking of the Lusitania during World War I to dress fashions and descriptions of New York City during the early 1900s. There's an interesting side story regarding the real-life Heinrich Friedrich Albert, Germany's commercial attaché to the United States, considered to also be a spy. The novel is well-researched and will appeal to those who like a heavy dose of history with their fiction.

§ Lourdes Venard is an independent editor who divides her time between New York and Maui.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, July 2016

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