By J. Roslyn
In her second Kitty Weeks novel, Murder Between The Lines, Rhada Vatsal again takes us back to the 1910s, a tumultuous time in U.S. history, where women are demanding the long promised right to vote, and, as World War I bloodies Europe, the American government and defense industries are quietly preparing for war.
Set in 1915, New York City, Murder Between the Lines, depicts an America that, on the surface, appears to be as it has been for decades. Kitty Weeks, the daughter of a wealthy man who simultaneously tries to protect her as he encourages her to be independent, knows that war is coming. The signs are not hidden well. Her best friend returns from nursing soldiers on the battlefields of Europe a broken woman. She has seen the horror of trench warfare first hand. At the same time, former President Theodore Roosevelt has “called for a navy that would be second in size and efficiency only to that of Great Britain,” and government money is pouring in to test Edison’s batteries for use in submarines.
A writer for the ladies’ page of The Sentinel newspaper, Kitty has pushed hard against covering tea parties and has successfully convinced her editor to allow her to cover suffragettes and Woodrow Wilson’s visit to New York City. When Elspeth Bright, a young, vibrant woman, connected to the Edison battery-research, is found frozen to death in Central Park, Kitty is driven to use her journalist skills to try to bring her justice.
Vatsal’s meticulous historical research broadens Kitty’s world to include the famous suffragette, Alva Belmont (also known as Alva Vanderbilt), and the actress Marie Dressler, known later for, among other things, her brilliant performance in “Dinner at Eight.” We also attend the “first annual dinner of the Motion Picture Board of Trade of America” at the newish Waldorf-Astoria. Here, President Woodrow Wilson prophetically states: “America will always seek to the last point at which her honor is involved to avoid the things which disturb the peace of the world, …there will come that day when the world will say, ‘This America that we thought was full of a multitude of contrary counsels now speaks with the great volume of the heart’s accord, and that great heart of America has behind it the supreme moral force of righteousness and hope and the liberty of mankind!’”
Rhada Vatsal is an exceptional writer and gifted historian. In the first Kitty Weeks novel, A Front Page Affair, and again in this second novel, Vatsal has successfully recreated the mood, the sights, smells and controversies of New York City in the years leading up to the deployment of American soldiers to fight in the Great War. As the United States enters into the centennial anniversary of America’s involvement in that war, Vatsal’s books allow us to reflect on the small fires that led to the conflagration, and they allow us to recognize that the fight for female equality is not a recent endeavor.
Murder Between the Lines deserves more than five stars. Read it and you will agree.
Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (May 2, 2017)
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC