The War Against Miss Winter (Rosie Winter Series #1)

The War Against Miss Winter (Rosie Winter Series #1)

by Kathryn Miller Haines
The War Against Miss Winter (Rosie Winter Series #1)

The War Against Miss Winter (Rosie Winter Series #1)

by Kathryn Miller Haines


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It's 1943, and the war escalating in Europe and the Pacific seems far away. But for aspiring actress Rosie Winter, the war feels as if it were right in New York City—what with food rationing and frequent blackouts . . . and a boyfriend she hasn't heard word one from since he enlisted in the navy. Now her rent is coming due and she hasn't been cast in anything for six months. The factories are desperate for women workers, but Rosie the Thespian isn't about to become Rosie the Riveter, so she grabs a part-time job at a seamy, lowbrow detective agency instead.

However, there's more to the Big City gumshoe game than chasing lowlife cheating spouses. When her boss turns up dead, Rosie finds herself caught up in a ticklish high society mystery, mingling with mobsters and searching for a notorious missing script. Maybe she has no crime-fighting experience—but Rosie certainly knows how to act the role. No matter how the war against Miss Winter turns out, it's not going to end with her surrender!

Evocative, entertaining, and wonderfully original, Kathryn Miller Haines's War Against Miss Winter introduces not only an unforgettable new sleuth but also an exciting new voice in the mystery genre, with a fast-paced tale of murder and deception that brings the World War II era vividly to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061139789
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 06/12/2007
Series: Rosie Winter Series , #1
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Kathryn Miller Haines is an actor, mystery writer, award-winning playwright, and artistic director of a Pittsburgh-based theater company.

Read an Excerpt

The War Against Miss Winter

Chapter One

Death and the Fool

Auditions were murder.

On New Year's Eve I went to the final casting call of 1942, the last opportunity I'd have to say I was in something that year that didn't involve wearing a mask, a fur suit, or hawking kitchen products at the Lions Convention. I was trying out for a new musical called You Bet Your Life, which, thankfully, had nothing to do with the Germans. Unfortunately, judging from the score, it also had very little acquaintance with the Western scale. The audition was a standard cattle call in a room large enough to serve as a field hospital. Hundreds of women with 8 x 10s in hand lined the walls while two men—one big, one small—roamed in a parallel line judging our attributes. I made it through "too old," "too short," and "too fat," before one of the proctors stopped before me.

"Name?" he asked.

"Rosie Winter."

His pencil scratched across his clipboard. "You sing?"

"Like a bird."


"Better than Pavlova."

He took a gander at gams that had so little muscle it was a wonder I could climb stairs. "What was the last thing you were in?"

"The backseat of a Willys-Knight."

I was dismissed at "too much personality."

I was used to rejection, but my dismissal from You Bet Your Life didn't just signify another lost part in another bad show; it meant I'd officially hit rock bottom. I hadn't been cast in anything in six months. Not only was it time to consider another career, I was going to be kicked out of my boardinghouse, an establishmentthat only offered low cost rooms to working actresses. If that wasn't enough to put the sour on my puss, the love of my life had shipped out the month before after deciding the navy had more to offer him than I did.

On the bright side, I had a day job. I worked at McCain & Son, a small detective agency located at Fifth and East Thirty-eighth, a spit from Broadway. I'd found the job courtesy of the Ladies Employment Guild (motto: Girls, get a LEG up on the workforce). When I started, there were only two employees, Jim McCain, owner and operator (and, I assumed, the "& Son" of the title) and his secretary, a well-endowed, well-preserved middle-aged doll I eventually learned was named Agnes, but was usually referred to as honey, baby, or cupcake. As much joy as Agnes brought into Jim's life, at some point he figured out that he couldn't function in an office where the only alphabetical thing was the soup. That's why he hired me.

While Agnes did whatever it was Agnes did, I answered phones, scheduled appointments, filed, and fantasized. I'd grown up reading the pulps, so working for a private investigator was a dream for me. I imagined I was the lithe and lovely sidekick to a dick whose piercing gaze could immediately discern truth from trouble. Together, we'd break into dark warehouses, guarded mansions, and underground lairs, hunting down evil-doers with names like Captain Zero, the Bleeder, and the Domino Lady. Alas, Dime Detective got it all wrong. As far as I could tell, detecting was a synonym for waiting and both were dull work. Jim waited in his office for clients to call. Then he waited for cheating husbands to leave their chippies' houses. Then he waited for his film to develop as proof of the affair. There was nothing glamorous about it.

At least, I think that was the case. There was another side to Jim's business, a side we couldn't see. Through the front door came the cuckolded men and betrayed women with their desperate rheumy eyes, but there was a back entrance too, where clients demanding anonymity entered Jim's office by climbing up the fire escape and through a window. Agnes and I never saw these people, but we could hear the low drone of their voices as they recounted misdoings that never ended up in the notes Jim gave me to type. I gave these mysterious strangers names like the Mumbler and the Lisper and grew capable of identifying who was who based on only a whispered sibilant s. As Agnes and I passed our time in the reception area, I spun tales about what was happening in the inner office. Money laundering, numbers running, strike breaking—I attributed all of it to those nameless, faceless individuals who'd been reduced to vocal tics. Agnes silently listened to my musings, a wry smile hinting that she was far more aware of the truth than she'd ever let on.

I liked Agnes. I liked the job. I liked Jim. He was loud and boisterous and so disorganized he could lose things he never knew he had. I didn't know him very well, but I trusted him in some implicit way. He was one of the few bright spots remaining in a world that was rapidly approaching complete darkness.

I walked to McCain & Son and rewarded my failed audition efforts with a consolation cup of joe from Frankie's Diner. As I entered our suite, I stumbled over a mountain of mail that had been pushed through the door slot. Even though Agnes and I had closed the office on Christmas Eve, the reception area had a nasty stench that hinted that Jim had been working in our absence and had been kind enough to leave food to rot over the holidays. As the radiator groaned its welcome, I gathered up the mail, clicked on the lamps, and dumped my purse on one of the reception chairs. Churchill, our office stray, emerged from the potted dieffenbachia and gave me an irritated yowl.

"Daddy not feed you?" I asked. Churchill didn't answer, but then one couldn't expect the devil's minion to bother with such formalities. I retrieved a tin of cat food from a cabinet, dumped it into his bowl, and crushed the can for the local scrap drive. With nary a thank-you, Churchill raced to the dish and buried his face in the unappetizing mash.

The War Against Miss Winter. Copyright © by Kathryn Haines. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Rhys Bowen

“Perfectly captures the feel, sights and sounds of New York in the 1940s.”

Reading Group Guide

1. How would you characterize Rosie Winter's relationship with her boss, Jim McCain? Why does Jim hire someone to keep an eye on her?

2. Based on the author's depictions of Jayne, Rosie, and Ruby, how would you describe the typical life of a struggling young actor in New York City in the 1940s?

3. Why does Peter Sherwood seek out Rosie to audition for the play he is directing, and how sincere are his feelings for her?

4. How does Ruby Priest's involvement with the McCain family complicate Rosie's relationship with her at Shaw House and in their shared experiences in rehearsing the play, In the Dark?

5. How does Jack's absence from her life affect Rosie, and why does she refuse to correspond with him while they are separated from one another?

6. How does World War II contribute to the atmosphere of this novel, and why does it work especially well in the context of the mystery genre?

7. Why does Jayne lie to Rosie about who was responsible for her physical assault, and what does her decision to deceive Rosie reveal about the true nature of their friendship?

8. How does Churchill the cat play a role in Rosie's learning the truth about Raymond Fielding's missing play?

9. To what extent were you surprised by the revelations about Raymond Fielding? Whom did you suspect in the murders of Jim McCain and Edgar Fielding?

10. How did the cumulative effects of mystery and intrigue in the novel affect your reading experience? What was your favorite moment of suspense?

11. Why do you think Rosie feels torn about being an actor during a time of war?

12. How does Haines recreate the feel of the1940s?

13. Do you think Haines' background as an actor and playwright increased the sense of authenticity in the story?

14. Despite the fact that both Al and Tony are involved in the mob, both appear to be "good guys." How does their involvement in organized crime color your opinion about them?

15. Although Tony is vindicated, do you think he's an appropriate match for Jayne?

16. We tend to think of World War II as being the good war, yet that wasn't necessarily the perception of those who were living through the experience, especially prior to widespread knowledge about the various atrocities being committed by the Axis nations. What surprised you most about life on the homefront? Did your own knowledge about the outcome of the war color the way you perceived Rosie's complaining?

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