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Girl in Disguise

Girl in Disguise

4.2 5
by Greer Macallister

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"Electrifying...a rollicking nineteenth-century thrill ride." Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun

"A Spunky Spy Saga." — NPR Books

A new novel from the USA Today Bestselling author of The Magician's Lie

Inspired by the real story of


"Electrifying...a rollicking nineteenth-century thrill ride." Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun

"A Spunky Spy Saga." — NPR Books

A new novel from the USA Today Bestselling author of The Magician's Lie

Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin—unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective.

Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency's toughest investigations. But is the woman she's becoming—capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses—the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 10/10/2016
Macallister (The Magician’s Lie) pens an exciting, well-crafted historical novel featuring Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective in 1856 Chicago. Kate is a widow and needs a job, convincing Allan Pinkerton that a female detective can go places and do things a male detective cannot. Once hired, Kate becomes skilled at lock picking and surveillance, but she is best in disguise—as a prostitute, rich matron, spinster, clerk, Southern belle, doting sister, and false friend—an expert liar, playing a role. She investigates burglaries, bank robberies, embezzlement, counterfeiting, blackmail, and murder. The Pinkerton Detective Agency is a man’s world, and Kate is forced to prove herself, especially when someone tries to discredit her. She eventually earns the respect of her fellow detectives, learning a secret to be used later. Kate carries a pistol, but her wit, careful observation, and boldness see her through tricky and unexpected situations with desperate, dangerous criminals. In 1861 Kate comes up with an ingenious plan to protect President Lincoln from a Southern assassination plot, and she later works as a Pinkerton spy in the South during the Civil War, vowing revenge on whoever betrayed her lover and focusing on a formidable adversary, the notorious real-life Southern spy Mrs. Rose Greenhow. Loaded with suspense and action, this is a well-told, superb story. Agent: Elizabeth Weed, the Book Group. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Greer Macallister brings the original Miss Pinkerton roaring back to life in this electrifying tale. Girl in Disguise is a rollicking nineteenth-century thrill ride, complete with clever disguises and coded messages, foiled plots and hidden agendas, lies, indiscretion, and forbidden love. Kate Warne is a scrappy, tough-as-nails detective who did a man's job for the first time in American history. She lives and breathes again in this riveting novel." - Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun

"I was absolutely ensnared byGirl In Disguise, Greer Macallister's unflinching investigation of what it means to be true to yourself while living a life of deception. Mysterious Kate Warne, who fought perception to become the first female Pinkerton detective, is just the kind of courageous, ingenious, fierce character I love. I could not stop turning pages as she dons disguises, tells lies, rubs shoulders with lady spies, hardened criminals, double agents, and President Lincoln, and manages to uncover the truth-not just about the crimes she investigates, but her own heart. Chock full of fascinating ripped-from-the-headlines period details and intriguing historical personages, I drank this book down in a single shot." - Erin Lindsay McCabe, USA Today bestselling author of I Shall Be Near To You

"an exciting, well-crafted historical novel. Loaded with suspense and action, this is a well-told, superb story." - Publishers Weekly, STARRED

"With cunning, guile, and a dash of desperation, Kate Warne charms her way into the old boys' club of a mid-19th-century Chicago detective agency and soon finds herself catapulted into a world of spies, rogues, and double-crossers. As she dons and sheds all manner of disguises, Kate discovers that she has a knack for subterfuge - and more than that, she likes it. Inspired by a real-life story, Greer Macallister has created a fast-paced, lively tale of intrigue and deception, with a heroine at its center so appealingly complicated that she leaps off the page." - Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

"From theunderbelly of Chicago to the front lines of the Civil War,Girl in Disguisecrackles with spirit, and the trailblazing Kate Warne is a character I would follow anywhere. In Macallister's confident hands, this novel is packed full of adventure, moxie, and heart. I dare you not to get hooked." - Rae Meadows, author of I Will Send Rain and Mercy Train

"If you love historical fiction, you're going to devour GIRL IN DISGUISE. The time, the place, the girl — this book takes you on a thrill ride with the first female detective, making her way by pluck and luck through the seedy streets of 19th century Chicago, finding her place in a male-dominated world" - Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue

"All hail a mighty woman in a man's world! Greer Macallister aims her pen at Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective, and hits the mark with this rousing, action-packed adventure. A book that brings to light a commanding and little-known contribution to American history." - Sarah McCoy, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker's Children

"Macallister is becoming a leading voice in strong, female-driven historical fiction. Exciting, frightening, and unspeakably moving, Girl in Disguise reveals what one courageous woman endures to enact justice in a nation at war, and change the course of history." - Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Hemingway's Girl

"Girl in Disguise cleverly unearths the story of Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective. Fast-paced, subversive, and with rich prose, it's everything an historical mystery should be. In the end it will leave you stunned. And then you will want to read everything else Greer Macallister has ever written" - Ariel Lawhon, author of Flight of Dreams

"A celebration of a singular woman's life that's guided by facts but features some inviting imaginings." - Kirkus

"The best book I read in 2016 hasn't been published yet. Historical fiction at its best.... a rollicking tale." - Publishers Weekly

"Macallister's story is a rip-roaring, fast-paced treat to read, with compelling characters, twisted villains, and mounds of historical details adeptly woven into the tale of a courageous woman who loves her job more than anything or anyone else." - Booklist

"a sure crowd-pleaser for lovers of historical fiction and chilling plotlines." - Library Journal

"...the balance of beautiful prose with both the hard truths of Kate's experiences and and her emotional journey turn the sketchy facts of a shadowy historical figure into a very realistic, living and breathing person. What a pleasure to learn about one such woman, especially one we know so little about, through Macallister's eloquence and artistry!" - BookBrowse

"A Spunky Spy Saga....Girl in Disguise, Macallister's sophomore effort, dives into case after case, convincing the reader as well as Pinkerton that Kate is an ace detective in this dangerous man's world. Kate gets better as she goes - and so does the book." - NPR Books

"Kate's voice is fresh and compelling, and therefore, overall, this is a very well-written and enjoyable novel." - Historical Novels Review

Kirkus Reviews
The story of the very first female detective traces her growth from determined young woman to seasoned pro.Though she was not a woman who expected to work, as few women of the 1850s did, Kate Warne is determined to find a position that suits her. Though she's a widow desperate for income, Kate eschews this identity, cultivating instead a reputation as a woman with a quick mind. When she applies for a position at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Kate uses her powers of persuasion to convince Allan Pinkerton that having a woman on staff might be of particular value. Pinkerton gives Kate a trial case, and while she ends it at odds with fellow detective Tim Bellamy, she lands the job and becomes Pinkerton's first lady agent. Macallister (The Magician's Lie, 2015) follows Kate through her years with Pinkerton's, with each case serving as the next chapter in the serial storyline. Kate finds an ally in colleague Graham DeForest and potential adversaries in Bellamy and new hire Jack Mortenson. The animosity of the latter becomes more prescient when Kate is put in charge of her own department of lady detectives, and Mortenson's lack of respect for women becomes a serious problem. The story follows Kate as she comes into her own, from missteps and mix-ups, like losing key pieces of evidence, to protecting President Abraham Lincoln from an assassination attempt. An Author's Note provides some of the details on the differences between the fiction and Kate's true history, though those immersed in the plot may not want to know the difference. A celebration of a singular woman's life that's guided by facts but features some inviting imaginings.

Product Details

Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist whose work has appeared in publications such as The North American Review, The Missouri Review, and The Messenger. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.

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Girl in Disguise 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
SecondRunReviews 6 days ago
Turns out not much is known about Kate Warne, The Pinkerton Agency’s first female operative, but that doesn’t stop author Greer Macallister from writing a compelling tale about a woman and the love of her job. I was expecting Girl in Disguise to unfold a bit different than it did. I was expecting to read about an unusual woman with a penchant for solving crimes and perhaps be treated to a single mystery with a bit of backstory about Mrs. Warne. The story took on a bit of a different shape connecting several different cases together while building Kate’s character and showing her dedication to her job and her country. It was a pleasant surprise. Kate ranks right up there, in my mind, with Alexandra Bergson from Willa Cather’s O! Pioneers. A woman willing to deny herself simple pleasures in an effort to survive, overcoming life’s obstacles to find a rewarding self-made life beyond those struggles. I admired Kate’s tenacity and ingenuity. I do wish that many of the case files from Mrs. Warne’s days with The Agency hadn’t been lost in Chicago’s Great Fire as her story is certainly one I wouldn’t mind reading more about. I have to hand it to Ms. Macallister for taking a few scant details and introducing me to a new historical heroine to admire. Her compelling story gives strength and encouragement in the darkest known part of American history to date.
Anonymous 3 months ago
A must read!
Deb-Krenzer 8 months ago
I found this to be a pretty interesting book. I had never heard about a Pinkerton saving the life of President Lincoln and while I was reading it, I wondered if it was fact or fiction. It's too bad that we lost a lot of information about the first Pinkerton woman during the big Chicago fire. It sounds like her life was pretty interesting. I'm not sure that I could have done that. There were some pretty mean characters that she associated with. And those characters didn't really care about whether they shot you or not. Kate Warne sounded like a pretty feisty character and not someone I would really like to meet in a dark alley or to be on her hit list. I know because of the fire, the author was able to find enough evidence to find out that Ms. Warne was one heck of a spitfire. I immensely enjoyed reading this book and to know that this was a real woman and a real pioneer for women's rights. Thanks to Sourcebook Landmark for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
JBronder 8 months ago
Kate Warne is the first female Pinkerton detective and in 1856 Allan Pinkerton was not about to hire a woman. Follow along as Kate takes on many cases over the years and stands toe to toe with the other male detectives. Kate is a master of disguise and uses her talents to get information during the Civil War. I never thought of women working for the Pinkerton’s but it makes sense. What better disguise than to work in an all male profession especially when women are thought less of a man? Kate is a smart, snarky woman that has no problem getting dirty to do her job. I love reading about strong women, especially those that step out of society’s norms. I didn’t realize that Kate Warne is a real person. There is not much known about her since so much was lost in the great Chicago fire. I really wish I knew more about her. I am definitely interest in learning more about her because of Girl in Disguise. This is a great, entertaining story. It’s a historical fiction that leaves you wanting more. Although I think Greer MacAllister could have made this a series, this book does leave me wanting more stories with Kate in them. I received Girl in Disguise from SourceBooks for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
KrisAnderson_TAR 8 months ago
Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister is based on the real life of the first female Pinkerton agent, Kate Warne. It is 1856 in Chicago, Illinois and Kate Warne needs a job. She is a widow with little in the way of funds. In response to an advertisement, Kate arrives at the offices of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Kate is interviewed by Allan Pinkerton who states that they do not hire women. She asks him for an opportunity to prove her worth by solving a case. If she can close the investigation, Kate will get a position. Pinkerton agrees and gives her an opportunity to recover money stolen from First Eagle Savings Bank. With a little assistance, Kate is successful and gets her position as the first female Pinkerton agent. Unfortunately, her fellow agents are not as welcoming as Allan Pinkerton. Kate sets out to learn the skills she needs to be a successful agent and prove to the men that she is an asset. We get to follow Kate as she learns her craft and shows how valuable female agents can be to the agency. Kate is so successful that Pinkerton needs to start a Female Bureau of Detectives, and he wishes Kate to head it. This is a great opportunity for Kate, and she embraces the challenge. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Kate feels her services are more valuable in the field. Kate’s skills could prove vital to the country during this time of upheaval. But life is not all rosy for Kate. Pick up a copy of Girl in Disguise to find out what happens to Kate Warne. Girl in Disguise is a slow starter, but it gets better the further I got into the story. The novel is nicely written, and I did find it appealing. I wish, though, that the author had focused on Kate’s joining the Pinkerton agency and maybe one or two cases. Kate’s life would have made a great series. Each book could have focused on a new case. The novel starts in 1856 and takes us through the end of the Civil War. I was dissatisfied with the romance portion of the book and how it affected Kate. It just did not seem to go with her personality or behavior prior to this point. I give Girl in Disguise 4 out of 5 stars. The book, in a way, reminds me of a biography. But it lacked the depth you would find in one. We do not get enough details on Kate and her life as an agent. It is a superficial overview. I would have loved more details especially when she first started out as an agent. It is supposed to be a fictionalized account, so I wish the author had pushed it a little further. The ending was a bit of a letdown. It would have been nice if the author had included an epilogue showcasing the end of Kate Warne’s life. I am interested in finding out more information about Kate Warne and her life. I know that little information on Kate and her activities survived the Chicago Fire of 1871, but I hope to find more details than were available in Girl in Disguise. If you enjoy reading historical novels, check out Girl in Disguise.