The Dutton Girl

Written by Stan Freeman
Review by Jeanne Greene

Sarah Dutton is no beauty, even by 1915 standards, but she’s worth a fortune in jewels. When someone abducts Sarah and the jewels, half the New York police force and the whole Tierney Investigation Agency (Sean and his cousin John) start combing the city. This is the first case for John Nolan, but there’s no pleasure in it. He just needs money to bring his fiancée to New York; their letters tell his love story. John’s a clever lad and a hard worker so, while the police go their own way, he investigates everyone associated with Sarah Dutton, her fiancé, and her family, eliminating likely suspects one by one. The plot is complicated by the way John thinks—one logical step at a time—sometimes brilliant, sometimes way off track. The author shadows John’s every step as he learns to shoot a gun, follows false leads, hires an airplane for spying, and, apparently, hits a dead end, before he gets close to Sarah Dutton.

Strong characters are necessary to turn a kidnapped heiress and missing jewels into an original plot, and unfortunately John and his girlfriend in Ireland are the only ones who are not 1915 stereotypes. Freeman (Ninety Million in Change, 2017) has talent; if only he were more succinct. He can create tension while a man examines a jewel, an important plot point, but he gives too much space to one-scene characters and actions without consequences. Nevertheless, The Dutton Girl is a strong effort, which may lead readers to Freeman’s free novellas online.