Death on the Homefront (Emily Cabot Mysteries)

Written by Frances McNamara
Review by Trish MacEnulty

Frances McNamara’s latest Emily Cabot mystery once again explores the amateur sleuth’s Chicago haunts. Our heroine has matured since the previous installment. The year is 1917, and Emily is now the mother of three grown children. She and her husband both teach at the University of Chicago, where they interact with such famous personages as Clarence Darrow and Jane Addams. At the beginning of the novel, a young woman who is close to the family is mysteriously murdered. The police claim a disgruntled German waiter did the deed, but Emily has her doubts. Emily’s daughter, Lizzie, begs her to find the truth. Unfortunately, the detective with whom she once worked is no longer on the force, and there’s not much she can do without his help. Then a young lawyer comes on the scene and proves to be an ally. As the investigation proceeds several theories come to light. The police claim the unemployed waiter was the young woman’s lover; others believe he was a spy who killed her because she had damning information. The truth, as it turns out, is much closer to home.

McNamara captures the tension of a country at odds with itself, including bigotry towards German Americans, the condemnation of peace activists as traitors, and mobs ready to mete out violence. History lovers will be delighted by the wealth of information about the progressive institution Hull House, which opened its doors to European immigrants and allowed socialists and proponents of peace to meet inside its walls unmolested. Although the novel gets off to a rather slow start, Emily’s concern for her children and her insightful perspective on the events of the period will keep readers engaged till the story picks up steam. The twist at the end is well worth the wait.