Girl in Disguise is a Must-ReadGirl in Disguise by Greer Macallister
Pages: 308
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For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not. In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.
Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can't. She's a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she's been assigned to nab.
Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

Greer Macallister’s debut novel, The Magician’s Lie, was an instant favorite for me when I first read it back in 2015. I loved her writing style and the emphasis she put on the strong female characters in her story. When we lived in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to meet her at Foxtale Book Shoppe in a nearby suburb and I jumped at the chance. She was even nicer than I’d hoped and I’ve followed her closely ever since. I read an ARC of Girl in Disguise right before it released in 2017 and even though I’ve mentioned it on here many times I realized that I’ve never actually shared a review of the book.

I’ve always been a huge fan of historical fiction novels but it’s difficult to find ones with a strong female lead. They are out there and I’ve found some great ones in books like The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See which are both set during WWII. Greer Macallister however, has made strong women in historical fiction a defining characteristic of all her books which is probably why I feel so drawn to them over and over again.

In Girl in Disguise, we follow the story of Kate Warne who history knows as America’s first female detective and who worked at the Pinkerton Detective Agency. She’s a fascinating woman to study and I loved every second of reading Macallister’s perspective on her life. I particularly appreciated how Macallister tackled Warne being the first female detective and the obstacles she must have certainly faced as a woman in a male-dominated field in the late 1800’s. She’s smart and resourceful but she always had to work twice as hard as the men in her field to prove her worth and earn respect.

Macallister also went inside of Warne’s head to share the struggle she likely faced to balance her true identity and all of the identities she assumed (seductress, exotic foreign medium, rich train passenger, etc.). It must have been difficult to hold on to your true self while always having to pretend to be someone else. Little is known about Warne’s early life but late in the book, we are exposed to Macallister’s take on how Warne’s early life may have unfolded and how it may have led her to pursue the career she did.

Girl in Disguise is a fantastic story and an easily a new favorite of mine when it comes to the American historical fiction genre. Kate Warne is a strong woman trying to make it in a male-dominated field during the Civil War and Macallister brings her to life in such an amazingly vivid way.

I don’t normally like to give authors a lot of leeway to take creative liberties with the lives of real people in historical fiction but as Macallister shares in the author’s note at the end of the book little is actually known about Kate Warne so a lot of this book is entirely fiction. It did make me interested enough to do a little web sleuthing into the real Kate Warne and gave me a lot of appreciation for the role of undercover detectives during the Civil War. If you have any interest at all in American historical fiction, this is a great read.