From the bestselling author of Where the Lost Wander and What the Wind Knows comes the evocative story of two people whose paths collide against the backdrop of mystery, murder, and the Great Depression.
Chicago, 1923: Ten-year-old Dani Flanagan returns home to find police swarming the house, her parents dead. Michael Malone, the young patrolman assigned to the case, discovers there’s more to the situation—and to Dani Flanagan herself—than the authorities care to explore. Malone is told to shut his mouth, and Dani is sent away to live with her spinster aunts in Cleveland.
Fifteen years later, Michael Malone is summoned to Cleveland to investigate a series of murders that have everyone stumped, including his friend and famed Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, now Cleveland’s director of safety. There, in a city caught in the grip of a serial killer, Dani and Malone cross paths once again.
Malone is drawn to Dani and her affinity for the dead and compassion for the destitute. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that she could help him solve his case. As terror descends on the city and Malone and Dani confront the dark secrets that draw them together, it’s a race to find the killer or risk becoming his next victims.
Once again, I am set before the daunting task of writing a review for Amy’s book. I always feel humbled when I read her stories because I know that I don’t possess a lick of her talent with words. But here we are and I’ll do my best.
First, for Amy’s fans, this is a historical mystery/crime coupled with a study in character. Amy being Amy you’ll get the romance but that one takes its time, is discreet but is no less real and deep.
And I truly loved trying to guess “who did it” alongside Malone and Dani!
I also must confess that Amy did an amazing job setting the scene and plunging us in Chicago and then Cleveland before the second world war.
Chicago with its gangs, after Al Capone and the prohibition.
Cleveland and its misery, where millionaires had fled Millionaire Avenue and the mansions were but a ghost of their former glory.
A Cleveland that was Eliot Ness’s town now and that was also fearing the Butcher’s horrific murders!
Fedora, silk suits, long black cars are part of the background as well as proper manners of well-bred ladies.
The opening scene sucked me in right away.
We discover a young Dani Flanagan who learned that her dad and mom has just died. People say her daddy killed her mom but she doesn’t believe it. Dani is ten years old and singular with her odd eyes: one blue and one brown. Dani who hides another secret and peculiar ability.
When Michael Malone, then a young cop will explain her parent’s death to Dani, there will be an unforgettable bond forged between the two. He’ll never forget the little girl and nor will she.
When fifteen years later Malone will be summoned to Cleveland to help Eliot Ness find the serial killer, the Butcher, their paths will cross once more and they’ll immediately recognize each other.
Malone will realize that Dani could be a game changer in their investigation but he is reluctant to enroll her and expose that compassionate young woman to the Butcher’s filth and brand of horror.
I won’t say more about the plot.
What I will say, aside the historical setting and atmosphere being extremely well done, is that once more, Amy wrote perfectly unperfect yet moving characters.
The pairing of analytical, cynical but caring Malone with compassionate, vibrant and light Dani was just perfect.
Malone is disabused and rightly so. He’s lived through trauma in his life and know that life and people always disappoint you or turn for the worst at some point. That’s why he thinks it’s better to expect the worse, to squash hope in the bud. That way, you won’t be surprised when it happens. You won’t be hurt.
But even with his worn-out soul, he remained good inside. Despite the atrocities he has witnessed.
He’ll fight his attraction for Dani for so long!
He doesn’t’ dare to hope and he doesn’t want to soil her. She deserves someone younger, someone better.
Dani is one of these heroines who is a well of compassion. She can’t help but care and love.
Under her unassuming veneer of well-bred seamstress living a quite secluded and lonely life with her two aged great aunts hides a golden heart and a courageous woman.
I truly adored what Dani did for the dead and destitute. Her patient care for their battered bodies, her will to clothe them, to give them shoes, to retore their dignity and their identity in death brought me to tears more than once.
“Nobody cares about these people…or their stories.”
Dani is also a courageous young woman who won’t hesitate to help Malone in his chase of The Butcher, even knowing that doing so will have her face horror.
Last word about this story: I loved seeing the political background and learning about the political plot against Ness when that one was perceived as a threat to others because he had set such high standards.
“Eliot never took a bribe, and that made him a legend. He set an impossible standard for himself and made every other politician look bad in the process. They haven’t forgiven him for that.”
Amy Harmon has written a gripping historical mystery that had me read in nearly one sitting, rooting for Dani and Malone’s story.
Thanks for reading!