Friday, May 19, 2017

Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter

I went back and forth for quite a while before I ever made the decision to buy this book.  Anyone who knows me and my reading habits knows that I love series books - whether it is children's mysteries, young adult mysteries, super-hero related, adult mysteries, psychic novels - so long as it is a series, I am pretty sure to give it a try at some point.  So, what made me give this one-offer a shot?

I had a coupon.  Plain and simple.  I hate letting a Barnes & Noble coupon go to waste, and when I couldn't find any new books in any of my current series that I am reading, nor could I find any new series that seemed interesting - I ultimately settled on this.  A young newsgirl working in 1920s Chicago is witness to a murder, and now it's up to her to prove that the victim's pretty young fiance was not the killer.

Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter is a bit of a deceptive title,  Isabel is not a reporter - at least not yet.  She does work for the Chicago Tribune, though - selling newspapers on the street corner to help her mother, who works nights at the hospital to make just enough money to keep a roof over their head and food on their table.  Isabel's father died in the war, leaving Isabel and her mother to fend for themselves in a cruel world where women had not yet gained the equality in the job market.  Isabel is determined to change that.  She wants to be just like Maude Collier, one of the very few female beat reporters, and while she may not \go to school any more, Isabel can read and write, and she's got a lot of spunk.

I mean, a LOT of spunk!

Beth Fantaskey's protagonist may be young, and in some ways naive, she is determined, she is outspoken, and she never backs down from a fight.  So when she hears a gunshot one night just after one of her regular customers - the pretty department store clerk, Colette Giddings - went down that alley with her fiance, Isabel runs down to see what happens.  Although she sees Miss Giddins kneeling over the body, blood on her coat and the gun lying right next to her, Isabel is certain she is innocent.  The police may think she's guilty...her idol, Maude Collier may think she's guilty...heck, everyone in Chicago may think she's guilty.  But Isabel knows in her heart that she's innocent, and she will do anything to prove it.

Fantaskey takes readers back in time to a period with no internet, no cell phones, no computers, and no instant communications.  She writes some very believable characters in very believable situations and isn't afraid, even in a middle-school book, to show Chicago for the way that it was back then.  Bootleggers, mobsters, hard-nosed police detectives, and adults who barely give a poor young girl a second glance find that they underestimate this one - for Isabel Feeney is on the case, and she won't let anyone get in her way.

Along the way, Isabel meets Miss Gidding's son Robert, who is still struggling after a bout of polio.  She also meets the victim's daughter, Flora Bessemer, who is a bit of a braggart and a lot uppity.  This unlikely trio ultimately have to figure out who really killed Flora's father.  Was it Miss Gidding's sister, who was jealous of her beauty and relationship with Flora's father?  Was it Robert's father, who wanted nothing to do with a weak, crippled son, but who couldn't stand to see the mother of his child with another man?  Or was it one of the many mobsters in Chicago's underworld who was making Flora's father pay for some unknown crime?  And just how do a smashed piece of gum, some footprints outside of an abandoned building, and a scent that Isabel just can't put her finger on all figure into it?

On the front cover of the book is a blurb that reads "...a satisfying mystery with a daring female heroine."  I certainly would agree.  Fantaskey gives readers a mystery that could easily be enjoyed by adults as by middle-schoolers, and in some ways, is probably better plotted that some of the adult mysteries I have read.  It's a real shame this isn't an on-going series of mysteries, as I could definitely see Isabel Feeney stumbling on more mysteries to solve, and I would most definitely pick them up and read them!

RATING:  10 jars of Vick's Vapor Rub out of 10 for creating a lovable little detective (a la reporter) who reminds us of those perky children's detectives of yesteryear!

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