Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Margaret Brownley's "Petticoat Detective" - a wild west mystery of humor and heart

A Pinkerton detective, Jennifer Layne, alias Amy, is on the trail of the infamous Gunnysack Bandit, and she inadvertently takes the role of a lady of the night. So long as she never actually has to entertain men, it's a great cover - no one ever looks beneath the painted surface of a working girl. Former Texas Ranger Tom Colton is also searching for the bandit, the man he is certain murdered his troubled brother. In spite of his credentials, Jennifer isn't sure she can trust the man, but as she spends more time with him, she discovers that she wants to. Tom, to his shame, is also attracted to Amy - but the last thing he wants is to fall for a soiled dove who "refuses to leave her profession." Will they find the real bandit? And will Tom and Jennifer overcome the lies necessary for her to maintain her undercover role?
Petticoat Detective, Undercover Ladies Series #1   -     By: Margaret Brownley
One of Jennifer's big struggles is the constant falsehoods required by her occupation; as an undercover agent, she has to play a role. Given her role in this particular case, she cannot attend church or fellowship with believers, and, "Friendships require honesty, trust, and transparency--all the things her clandestine activities prevent" (221). As such, she is basically alone, and she cannot build relationships. That reality understandably weighs on her, especially when she finds that she really wants to make friends and be loved for who she is, not what she appears. The author finely balances that dilemma and her love of detective work in a believable character.

While I think bordellos offered a grimmer reality in real life, the author does a good job of bringing out the humanity of the working girls--their hurts, their history, their hardness, and their hearts. The secondary characters are gems, providing opportunities for both humor and serious subjects. I enjoyed learning more about the Pinkertons and their rules. While sweet and a touch cheesy, the story has a number of important points to make about judging, double standards, and who we are behind our appearance. A fun detective story of the old west, Petticoat Detective has both humor and heart.

Thank you Barbour and NetGalley for providing an e-copy for an honest review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

Undercover Ladies
1. Petticoat Detective
2. Undercover Bride
3. Calico Spy

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