Just another GR refugee. Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.
It is 1881, and the young actress Lily Long is in Chicago with her theatrical troupe. She finds her new husband beating her adoptive mother, and then he beats her and takes all her money, claiming he has a right to it, because he's her husband.*
He then disappears, she learns all the ways in which he lied to her and betrayed her, and she vows to get a divorce. Finally she finds a lawyer willing to take her case (nice Victorian ladies don't get divorced, and apparently most Victorian attorneys don't take their cases, if you believe this book), and then sees an ad from the Pinkerton Agency looking for female "operatives." (Mr. Pinkerton dislikes the word "detective.") She resolves to get hired as one of the first female detectives, and does so despite the fact she is some 15 years younger than their preferred profile.
This book is the tale of her first case, when the Pinkerton Agency sends her to Vandalia, Illinois, to attempt to find the former owner of a large estate there, abandoned for twenty years. (There is a prospective buyer.) What she finds is a town mysteriously silent after she mentions the name of the man she seeks. But she is determined to find the truth, and establish justice.
*This is the first historical "oops" I noticed. Illinois had a "married women's property act" allowing married women to keep their wages, some 20 years before this book is set. So her husband took her money because he was pond scum, but he didn't have a "right" to it.
The other two "oops" moments I caught were:
1. The usage of the term "feminist." The term existed, but was not in the vocabulary of Americans in the 1880s. (It was not used in dialogue, at least - but in interior monologue, which to my mind is about as bad.)
2. The heroine decides the architectural style of the old house she is visiting is clearly "Victorian." No. Just ... no. No, no, no, no, no.
The overall tone is melodramatic (perhaps appropriately, considering the heroine's background). On the up side, there is not even a whisper of a love triangle.
There's clearly going to be a sequel. I'd probably read it if it fell in my lap, but I doubt I'll go looking for it.
My ARC courtesy of Kensington and NetGalley - much thanks. My opinions are my own.