Death at Hull House

Written by Frances McNamara
Review by Jane Kessler

This is the second in a series featuring Emily Cabot of Boston. The year is 1893, and Emily has been expelled from the recently founded University of Chicago. She has accepted a position at Hull House, the settlement house on the west side of Chicago founded by Jane Addams to provide social and educational programs for the working class residents of the neighborhood. Here Emily works on publishing the data from the survey of households done by the Hull House staff. Then a man is found murdered in Hull House, and Emily, fearing that her brother may be involved, tries to discover the truth. Her efforts become complicated by a small pox epidemic sweeping the neighborhood.

This is a first-rate historical mystery and a fascinating look at life in turn-of-the-century Chicago. McNamara does an excellent job depicting and incorporating into the story the immigrants’ struggle to make a living amid wretched working and living conditions, the political corruption of the time, the work of social reformers like Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, and the early days of the University of Chicago. The series is best read in order as characters reappear and relationships develop.