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THE LINDBERGH NANNY
by Mariah Fredericks
Minotaur, November 2022
320 pages
$21.99 CAD
ISBN: 1250888204


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

New Jersey, March, 1932: in what will become the most famous crime in American history, the toddler son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh is taken from the family home, setting off a nationwide manhunt. Public rumours are rife, and everyone in the household comes under the shadow of suspicion.

The story begins from the moment that Betty Gow, the 26-year-old narrator, is first interviewed for the position of nanny for the Lindbergh's young son Charles Jr.

At the centre of police inquiries is the boy's nanny, a young Scottish immigrant in her very first such position. Maria Fredericks resurrects the actual nanny, Betty Gow, to serve as the first-person, present-tense narrator who recounts the compelling tale of what might have happened on that fateful day as she sees it, in a case that gripped the public conscience and redefined the law for kidnapping in America. It is an unforgettable read.

The opening chapter chronicles not only the interview itself, but also Betty's reactions to the questions, which probe her experience working for a wealthy figure in the public eye. Her experience is scant, and the woman conducting the preliminary interview is both skilled at her job and wary, searching Betty's background for anything that might suggest she is not suitable for the job. Eventually, however, she passes muster, and is taken to the Big House, to meet the Lindberghs themselves. It is a daunting experience for the twenty-six-year-old woman. She finds Lindbergh distant and difficult, his wife less so. Eventually, however, she settles in, gets to know the other members of the household staff, and even makes outside friends. She also comes to better appreciate the Lindberghs themselves, although Charles remains distant. Most importantly, she develops a deepening relationship with their son, little Charlie, who comes to occupy a special place in her heart.

Then, one night, as part of her routine, Betty decides to look in on Charlie. He's been ill recently, with a chest cold, but he seems to be resting comfortably; she can't hear any signs of discomfort. But that can't be right, Betty realises; she should be hearing something: coughing, or even just stirring in bed. She makes her way to the boy's crib in darkness, but Charlie isn't there. So begins the national nightmare. The baby Lindbergh, only child of one of the most famous couples in America, has been kidnapped. The police are summoned, the grounds are exhaustively searched, everyone inside the house is questioned. Suspicions are raised, and rumours touch everyone. As the child's nanny, Betty Gow is at the centre of many of these doubts. Betty's past is looked into, reaching as far back as her life in Scotland, and as far forward as her recent life in the Lindbergh's home and her current small circle of friends. The police question her relentlessly, if circumspectly, certain that she must be able to shed some life on this heinous crime. And then the boy's body is found.

THE LINDBERGH NANNY is compellingly told in the present tense and first-person voice of the young nanny herself. It is rooted in fact, interwoven with speculation nearly a century later about who might have been responsible for the young child's kidnapping and death. Mariah Fredericks makes skillful use of the first-person/present tense to build a captivating picture of what it must have been like for a young Scottish woman to enter the rarified world of the Lindberghs, and then have that world torn apart by a vicious crime at the very centre of her life. Remaining a mystery all these years later, the story is woven with considerable skill, and holds the reader in its grip from start to finish. A ten out of ten in anyone's judgment, I look forward to reading more from this exceptionally talented writer.

In addition to being a reviewer with over six hundred reviews and interviews,

Jim Napier is the author of Legacy and Ridley's War, in the British-based Inspector Colin McDermott Mystery Series. The third novel in the series, Family Matters, is

scheduled to be released in 2024.

Reviewed by Jim Napier, August 2022

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