The Fall of White City – Nancy S. Wikarski: Victorian Chicago Mystery Series #1

Having been a mystery buff for over fifty years but a historical fiction buff for less time, I never read the Gilded Age Chicago Mysteries. I’m delighted that this was reissued and that I chose to listen to it recently. Evangeline (Engie), a wealthy single woman of marriageable age, teaches at Hull House and has become immersed in Jane Addams’ and Helen Gates Starr’s mission, when a very promising student is found dead in an upscale hotel. Elsa, a smart, curious and beautiful German immigrant is dead and her twin, Franz arrested for her murder. Engie ropes in her childhood friend Freddie, an aspiring journalist stuck in a law career he hates to investigate. She is fairly sure the police are more focused on Franz’s political leanings, which are anarchistic, than what really happened. This is a well plotted, though given away too early, mystery about class, women’s roles, Hull House, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, full of temporary buildings that cost a fortune to build and human beings. Children still earn a living in factories instead of going to school. The murder of a poor young woman is solved quickly, her death unimportant. Engie moves between all of these worlds, enjoying her wealth and privilege but also committed to raising others up. This is a fun, engaging novel with great characters. As to the narrator of this audible book, she was GREAT, five stars EXCEPT for Freddy’s voice. He’s a major character and the voice she chose for him grated. So one star lost but overall not a deal breaker.

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