cover image The Detective’s Assistant

The Detective’s Assistant

Kate Hannigan. Little, Brown, $17 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-40351-1

In the summer of 1859, a recently orphaned girl named Nell is left with her Aunt Kitty in Chicago, her sole living relative. Less than keen on caring for a “gangly urchin,” Kitty immediately begins looking for other living arrangements for 11-year-old Nell (she also blames Nell’s father for her own husband’s death). But Aunt Kitty relents after Nell foils a pickpocket, and Nell begins to help out at the boardinghouse where Aunt Kitty lives, as well as with Aunt Kitty’s work. And what a job it is: Kitty is a detective for Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency (the character is based on Kate Warne, the first female detective in the U.S.). As Kitty and Nell root out thieves and murderers, Nell exchanges letters with her best friend Jessa, whose family used the Underground Railroad to escape slave hunters. Hannigan (Cupcake Cousins) makes skillful use of period details, bringing the novel’s threads together in a nail-biting conclusion. Nell is a fearless, no-nonsense heroine, and her dry-witted narration drives this rollicking historical escapade. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Mattson, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Apr.)