Title: A Girl Like You (Henrietta and Inspector Howard 1)
Author: Michelle Cox
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: 2016
Following the stock market crash of 1929, Henrietta Von Harmon’s father committed suicide, leaving Henrietta to help her mother care for seven younger siblings. Working as a twenty-six girl in the evenings at a local pub owned by Mr. Hennessey helps bring in some money, but Henrietta can’t seem to hold down a job during the day. Working as waitress at various restaurants never seems to last for Henrietta; she is fired countless times for slapping an owner or telling off a cook when they tried to get a bit friendly. With money as tight as it is, Henrietta finally agrees to her friend Polly’s suggestion to become a taxi dancer. Men play to dance with girls at the Promenade. As the money is much better than she makes from Mr. Hennessey, Henrietta agrees to the job and keeps it a secret from her mother.
Dancing at the Promenade turns out to be enjoyable. Henrietta gets to dress nice and be admired by the guests. Mama Leone runs a very tight ship and her girls are treated with respect. One evening, a dashing man dances with Henrietta, full of questions about Mama Leone and her operation. Later, Mama Leone is found murdered and Henrietta is shocked to learn that the dashing man she danced with, was an inspector with the Chicago police department. Inspector Howard knows that there much more behind Mama Leone’s murder than meets the eye, and he is convinced that having Henrietta work undercover will help the police gain access and evidence.
Henrietta is quick to agree for both the money and the excitement, but she soon realizes that this endeavor will take her into the gritty and dark underworld of Chicago. Struggling to thwart the attentions of a love-struck neighborhood boy, searching for a missing friend, and working as an usherette at the shady Marlowe, it quickly becomes apparent that Henrietta is in way over her head and her naivety threatens to interfere with finding the killer. As the victims start to pile up, Henrietta and Inspector Howard must fight to make sure they are not thrown on the top.
Chicago, 1930’s, gangsters. What is not to love!? A great start to a new series. Henrietta combines spunk with innocence and a good heart with a physical maturity beyond her years. I liked her and I found myself rooting for her, but at the same time, I wanted to lock her in her room and make her grow up! Inspector Howard is a great contrast to her, both in age and maturity, but he also has past demons of his own.
I loved the references to Marshall Fields, the Water Tower, and other iconic Chicago landmarks; they made me homesick!
The story-line for what is presented as a romantic historical mystery is actually quite dark and rather disturbing. Readers should be aware that the subject matter, though unfortunately not false, is seedy and representative of a time in history when the struggle to survive can outweigh morality. That being said, it was a good book and I am hopeful the author will write more.
Who might like this book:
I picked up this book because two of my favorite authors – Anna Lee Huber and Tasha Alexander – provided author endorsements. I admire both of these authors’ abilities to blend memorable and enduring characters with complex and engaging plot lines; author Michelle Cox seems to be following their lead with this book