by Sandra Ardoin
Calico Spy is the third book in Margaret Brownley’s Undercover Ladies series. When looking for light entertainment—some escapism—there are certain authors whose books should be at the top of the to-read list. Ms. Brownley is one of them.
Katie Madison isn’t what she appears to be when she arrives in Calico and begins work at a Kansas Harvey House. She can’t tell anyone she’s actually a Pinkerton agent investigating the murders of two Harvey Girls.
To Sheriff Branch Whitman’s regret, he hasn’t solved the murders that happened in his town. But the last thing he needs is for Fred Harvey to hire one of Allan Pinkerton’s detectives and have the man mucking up his investigation.
While Branch still deals with the circumstances of his wife’s death years ago, and Katie struggles to forgive her sisters for past betrayals and character assaults, they soon begin to work together to solve the crimes that both baffle and alarm Calico’s citizens.
I will say right off that the cover threw me. There is no clue in the illustration that this book deals with the Harvey Girls. From everything I’ve learned, they had a specific uniform that wasn’t calico in material or design. I guess I’m a snob when it comes to covers. I like them to reflect accuracies in the book. However, the coffee service is accurate and provides a bit of the fun to the story. There’s a touching mid-night scene involving a secondary character. I loved it and thought it clever.
The mystery built in an interesting and realistic way, and the culprit took me by surprise. Katie’s ineptness as a waitress provides some of the humor, and I felt for Branch with regard to the position he was put in when it came to his son. Of course, it’s always fun to read a story with an incident or historical fact—in this case, the Harvey House—as a backdrop.
Overall, I enjoyed this murder mystery/romance. In fact, I’d say it’s my favorite Margaret Brownley book so far.