Calico Spy (Undercover Ladies Series #3)

Calico Spy (Undercover Ladies Series #3)

by Margaret Brownley


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Pinkerton operative Katie Madison’s newest case takes her to Calico, Kansas, where two Harvey House restaurant waitresses were murdered in mysterious circumstances. Calico’s sheriff, Branch Whitman, has never met a Pink he liked and is stunned to learn the pretty redhead’s true identity as she works undercover as a Harvey girl. A tornado hits town, and a past deception puts Branch’s eight-year-old-son in danger. Now the Sheriff has no choice but to work with Katie—or chance losing everything he holds dear.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781628366280
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/01/2016
Series: Undercover Ladies Series , #3
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bestselling author Margaret Brownley has more than forty-five books to her credit. She has won numerous awards, including the Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice award and Romantic Times Pioneer award. She is also a two-time Romance Writers of America RITA finalist. Her books have been published in nine languages, and she has written for a daytime soap. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence. Margaret can be reached through her website at

Read an Excerpt

Calico Spy

Undercover Ladies: Book three

By Margaret Brownley

Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Margaret Brownley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63409-731-4


Calico, Kansas


Katie Madison tied the black satin ribbon at her neckline and frowned. The lopsided bow wouldn't do. She yanked the ribbon loose and tried again. Today she was all thumbs, and everything that could go wrong, did. Already she'd broken a shoelace, snagged a stocking, and torn the hem of her dress.

Just as she finished tying the bow for the third time the bedroom door flew open and her roommate's brunette head popped inside. "Katie! Hurry or you'll be late."

"I'm trying, I'm trying."

Mary-Lou's green eyes narrowed, and her Southern drawl grew more pronounced. "Pickens has a burr in his saddle. Said if you don't hurry he'll have your head!"

Katie's stomach knotted. She was already in trouble with the restaurant manager. "I'll be there in a minute."

"A minute might be too late." The door slammed shut, and Mary-Lou's footsteps echoed down the hall as she yelled for the other Harvey girls to make haste. "Y'all better hurry now, you hear?"

Katie whirled about for one last look in the mirror and hardly recognized the image reflected back. The black dress with its high collar, starched white apron, and black shoes and stockings made her look more like a nun than one of Pinkerton's most successful female detectives.

Even her unruly red hair had been forced to conform to Fred Harvey's strict regulations. Parted in the middle, it was pulled back in a knot and fashioned with the mandatory net. The rigid hairdo did nothing for her, appearance-wise. All it did was make her eyes look too big and her freckles stand out like brown polka dots.

Wrinkling her nose, she turned away from the mirror. It was a good thing she'd chosen to be a detective as she had neither the looks nor housekeeping skills needed for landing a husband.

Not that she was complaining; two Harvey girls had been found dead, and it was her job to find the killer. The assignment of a lifetime had landed in her lap.

Working undercover was never easy, but so far this particular disguise was proving to be the hardest one yet, even harder than last year's job as a circus performer. At least here she didn't have to hobnob with lions, and for that she was grateful. All she had to deal with now was a possibly deranged killer.

Pausing at the door, she checked that her leg holster and gun were secured beneath her skirt. The pocket seams had been ripped open for easy retrieval. Hand on the doorknob, she braced herself with a quick prayer. God knows, she needed all the help she could get.

Leaving the room, she raced along the hall and sped down the stairs. Just as she reached the bottom tread the heel of her shoe caught on the runner. Arms and legs flailing, she hit the floor facedown, and the wind whooshed out of her like juice from a squashed tomato.

Momentarily stunned, she didn't move. Not till noticing the polished black shoes planted in front of her did she gather her wits. Looking up, she groaned.

The manager, Mr. Pickens, glared down at her, hands on his waist. A large, imposing man, he looked about to pop the buttons on his overworked vest. Judging by his red face and quivering mustache, his patience was equally tested.

"Miss Madison. You're late!"

Her mouth fell open. Was that all he cared about? No concern for her welfare? No thought that she had injured herself?

"Well, are you going to lie there all night?"

"No, sir." She scrambled to her feet and smoothed her apron.

His eyebrows dipped into a V. "Shoulders straight, head back, and for the love of Henry, smile! I want to see some choppers." He spread his thin lips to demonstrate but did a better impersonation of a growling dog than a friendly waitress. "Do you hear me?"

"Yes, sir," she said. "Choppers."

"Tonight you're the drink girl. Do you think you can handle that?"

Plastering a smile on her face, she nodded. How hard could it be to pour tea?

He gave her a dubious look that did nothing for her self-confidence. "We'll soon see. Follow me."

He led her to the formal dining room where tables were already set for the supper crowd. The room was decorated in shades of brown and tan. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked the railroad tracks. Beyond, fields of tall grass and wildflowers spread a colorful counterpane beneath a copper sky.

The restaurant was shorthanded, and she had been handed a uniform the moment she stepped off the morning train. After that she'd hardly had time to catch her breath. So many rules and regulations to remember. No notepads or pencils were allowed. That meant she was expected to memorize the menu. She was also instructed to radiate good cheer to even the most difficult of patrons.

Her chances of lasting through the night didn't look promising, and that was a worry. The investigation depended on her keeping her job as a waitress. No one at the restaurant knew her legal name or real purpose for being there. As far as anyone knew, she was simply a farm girl who traveled all the way from Madison, Wisconsin, looking for adventure and a better life.

Pickens quickly pointed out the silver coffee urns and teapots. He stared at her with buttonhole eyes. "You do know the cup code, right?"

"Uh." There was a code for cups?

"Cup in the saucer means coffee." He demonstrated as he spoke. "A flipped cup against the saucer is for iced tea. A cup next to the saucer — milk. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir, next to the saucer."

"As for hot tea," he continued, and her heart sank. "The cup will be flipped upon the saucer." He then explained how to tell if the customer wanted black, green, or orange pekoe tea by the direction of the cup handle. "Any questions?"

She had plenty, but he didn't look in any mood to answer them, so she shook her head no.

Satisfied that she had donned the proper attitude or at least a Harvey-worthy smile, he turned. Giving three quick claps, he called the workers front and center. "All right, ladies, take your stations!"

"Don't be nervous," her roommate, Mary-Lou, said as they strode side by side to the back of the room.

Easier said than done. Katie stopped to stare at the cups on the table. She'd come face-to-face with some of the most ornery outlaws in the country, and she wasn't about to let a china cup intimidate her. On second thought, maybe just a little. Did the cup handle facing right mean green tea or pekoe?

Already her cheeks ached from smiling, but that was the least of it. Her collar itched, and the stiff starched apron felt like a plate of armor.

As if to guess her rising dismay, Mary-Lou said, "You'll like it here once you get used to it. You just have to work fast, be polite, and smile."

"Nothing to it," Katie muttered. She only hoped she had enough energy left at the end of the workday for sleuthing.

A loud gong announced the imminent arrival of the five-twenty-five. Windows rattled, and the crystals on the chandelier did a crazy dance as the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe train rumbled into the station. With a blare of the whistle, it came to a clanging stop in front of the restaurant.

Moments later, the door flew open and travelers filed into the dining room like a trail of weary ants. Only thirty minutes was allowed for meals before the train took off again. The Harvey House restaurants took pride in the fact that no one had ever been late boarding a train because of inept service.

Katie planted a smile on her face and a prayer in her heart. God, please don't let me be the one to break that record.


Sheriff Branch Whitman looked up just as the door to his office flew open. A cultured but no less commanding voice shot inside.

"Sheriff! I need a word with you!"

Branch lifted his feet off the desk and planted his well-worn boots squarely on the floor. He recognized his fastidiously dressed visitor at once, though they'd never been formally introduced.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Harvey?"

The renowned restaurateur stabbed the floor with his gold-tipped cane. He was somewhere in his midthirties, but his meticulous dark suit and Vandyke beard made him appear older.

"You dare to ask a question like that!" Harvey pushed the door shut and gazed at Branch with sharp, watchful eyes. "You know as well as I that someone is killing off Harvey girls." His British accent grew more pronounced with each word. Even his bow tie seemed to quiver with emotion. "And what, may I ask, are you doing about it?"

Branch slanted his head toward the chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat and —"

"I don't want a seat. I want to know what has been done to find the killer!"

Branch indicated the stack of files in front of him with a wave of his hand. "I can assure you that I'm doing everything in my power —"


Harvey's impatience was no worse than Branch's own. The killings had turned into one of the most puzzling crimes he'd ever worked on. Despite weeks of investigation, he still didn't have a single suspect. Given the nature of the town, that was odd.

If a youth took a fancy to a pretty girl, or a married man so much as thought about straying, the locals knew about it. Somehow folks even knew that a young one was on the way before the expectant mother. Yet two young women had been murdered, and no one saw or heard a thing.

"I can assure you," he said, "that the person or persons responsible will be brought to justice."

Before Branch took over as sheriff three years ago, Calico was, by all accounts, the roughest, toughest, and wildest place in all of Kansas, rivaled only by Dodge City. But he'd single-handedly changed all that, and it was now a right decent town — or was before the two recent murders.

Harvey's eyes glittered. "It's been six weeks since Priscilla's death." Priscilla was the first woman to die. Less than three weeks later, the girl named Ginger was found dead in an alleyway.

"These things take time."

Harvey straightened a WANTED poster on the wall with the tip of his cane. The man was as fastidious with his surroundings as he was in dress and speech. No doubt he took issue with the stack of folders and papers strewn haphazardly across Branch's desk.

"Too much time if you ask me. So what have you got so far?"

"Right now, nothing." Branch's jaw clenched. He suspected the killer was a Harvey employee, but he wasn't ready to reveal that information. Not yet. He couldn't take the chance of word getting out that the crime was an inside job.

"This is no less than what I expected from local authorities." Harvey leaned on his cane, and his eyes hardened. "That's why I hired the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Your services will no longer be needed."

Branch glared at him. Services? Harvey acted like he was firing one of his employees. "What happens in this town is my responsibility, and any outsiders —"

"Will report to me!" Harvey snapped his mouth shut and leaned over his cane as if to challenge Branch to disagree.

"Now wait just a minute."

Harvey's expression darkened. "No, you wait. We've wasted enough time and now a second girl is dead."

"And I will find her killer — both their killers." He didn't know Priscilla all that well, but Ginger was his favorite waitress. She'd often brought his evening meal to the office if she knew he was working late. Since he refused to adhere to Harvey's unreasonable regulations — particularly the no coat, no service rule in the main dining room — she did him no small favor.

"I'll have something to report to you soon." He sounded more certain than he felt. Each day that passed made finding the killer that much more difficult. Trails grew cold. Clues were lost. Memories faded. Even more worrisome was the possibility that the killer would strike again.

"Not soon enough." Harvey swung his cane under one arm and pulled his watch out of his vest pocket. "I'm sure the detective has arrived by now. If not on the morning or noon train, then on the five-twenty-five." He flipped the case open with his thumb. "I trust you'll give him your full cooperation."

Branch stiffened. Over his dead body. "Now see here —" The last thing he needed was some inept detective running loose in his town. Last time the Pinkerton operatives were involved in one of his cases they let the bad guys escape and almost got him killed. And look at the mess they made with the James gang. They could deny it all they wanted, but everyone knew the Pinkertons blew up the outlaws' house, killing Frank and Jesse's young half brother. No surprise there. The Pinkertons were known for their bullying tactics and underhanded methods, none of which Branch would tolerate.

Harvey replaced his watch and tipped his bowler. "Have a good day, Sheriff." He left with less fanfare than when he arrived.

Branch pounded his fist on the desk. "Dash it all!" The town was his responsibility — no one else's. The very thought of an undercover detective sneaking around like a mole in the ground set his teeth on edge.

Came in on today's train, did he? If the Pink was like most other passengers, he'd appreciate a good meal. Was probably at the Harvey House restaurant chowing down at that very moment. That was as good a place as any to intercept him. He pulled out his watch. He'd have to hurry if he wanted to reach the restaurant before the train left the station.

Decision made, he shot to his feet and plucked his Stetson off the wall.

One thing was certain. The man better enjoy his meal because if Branch had his way, the detective would be back on that train before he could say cock robin.


The woman glared at Katie. "You gave my son hot coffee!" The notch on her front tooth pegged her as a seamstress who bit off thread rather than cutting it with scissors.

Katie looked down at the pudgy face of a two-year-old and whisked his cup away. "Oops, sorry."

"I ordered iced tea," the man Katie pegged as a banjo player groused. She guessed his profession based on the callus on the side of his right thumb. "You gave me hot tea."

"Milk? You gave me milk?" This from a gray-haired woman who stared at her cup with the same look of horror one might regard a rattler. Hands and neck dripping with jewels, she acted like a rich widow used to having servants answer her every whim.

By the time Katie straightened out the drinks, she was ready to call it a night, though none of the other girls seemed so inclined. Instead they darted around tables like lively balls in a game of bagatelle.

To outward appearances the smooth flow of dishes, which came and went with nary a spoken word, seemed like magic. In actuality, it was all part of a carefully orchestrated plan.

The train porter had taken travelers' food orders at the last stop and telegraphed the restaurant. This allowed cooks to prepare meals in advance. Supper was seventy-five cents and after each passenger paid, he or she was directed to the table where soup or salad waited.

While the diners worked on the first course, Katie followed Mary-Lou into the kitchen to refill her coffeepot.

Praying that the night would soon end, she spread her mouth in what she hoped would pass as a smile. A Harvey girl must never look dowdy, frowzy, or tired, even if her feet were killing her or her thoughts less than charitable.

On the way back to the dining room she bumped into the dark-haired waitress named Tully. "Why you ..." Tully snapped her mouth shut and threw her shoulders back in an attempt to regain a positive, upbeat appearance. She might have succeeded had it not been for the Long Island (Rhode Island?) hen on her tray drowning in coffee.

"You'll pay for this," she muttered under her breath. With a smile that was more lethal than friendly, she did a dainty pirouette and returned the drowning hen to the kitchen.

Katie stiffened at the sound of her name. She turned and found Mr. Pickens practically breathing down her throat.

"Miss Madison! A word with you. Now!"

* * *

After Pickens finished chastising her for working too slow, Katie straightened out the beverage mess and returned an empty teapot to the counter in back of the room.

The ten-minute warning for boarding the train had sounded, but time had never passed more slowly. Katie wasn't certain she could hold out for another minute, let alone ten.

Tully whispered something to her roommate. Tully was tall and willowy with skin as smooth as honey. Katie envied the woman's ability to look graceful in the rigid uniform, while she felt awkward and out of place. But then, that was how she'd always felt, even back home.

The shadow of growing up in a family of beautiful women seemed to follow her wherever she went. Her four sisters all took after their mother in looks and had landed successful and well-respected husbands. Katie had the unenviable distinction of being both the black sheep of the family and the ugly duckling.

Tully's voice brought her out of her reverie. "Why not let the new girl do it?"

"Do what?" Katie asked, keeping her tone neutral. Alienating the others would only make her investigation more difficult.


Excerpted from Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley. Copyright © 2016 Margaret Brownley. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Calico Spy (Undercover Ladies Series #3) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Ellen-oceanside More than 1 year ago
One thing I love about her books, beside being excellent ones to read, is that they are informative. Didn’t know the cup code was so extensive, don’t believe it is used today. A delightful story of Katie, she seemed so ill fitted for the job of a Harvey girl. As a Pinkerton, to find out why 2 young girl have been murdered, one had a beau, they used the cook’s key to get back in late at night. Things between the sheriff, who didn’t want help from a Pinkerton, especially a woman, and his arrogant , caused sparks between them. Both are set out to get the killer. Wil they also get caught in love. Delightful reading as all of her books are.
June0 More than 1 year ago
Katie Madison is posing as a Harvey House girl while looking for a murderer. Someone has killed two Harvey House girls recently and the case is going nowhere. Sheriff Branch Whitman can't figure out any clues to the murders. When he learns a Pinkerton agent is coming to solve the case, he's not happy. He doesn't need their help. And when a Harvey House girl distracts him from finding the new agent he isn't too happy about that either. When he learns that girl is the agent, he's still not happy. Although by then he's enjoying her company a little. They are still having trouble finding any clues though. And then trouble comes to town for his son. Andy, his son who was born the day of the terrible tornado of '72, just wants to spend time with his father who is very protective of him. And Branch has to keep Andy from finding out more about that tornado. As Katie gets to know people things start to click a little and after figuring out a few strange things going on around town, pieces start to make sense. It takes a while for the final piece to fall into place though. By then, Katie is convinced that though she has feelings for Branch, she is better off leaving town and getting on with life. After all, she's learned not to trust men. And when Branch offers her a job, she's more than sure she needs to leave. This was a well written story that moved right along. Though it seemed to take a long time to solve the crime, the story was by no means boring. Each new piece just made for a better story. In the end, it was very satisfying. Clean, inspirational story.
CrystalCaudill More than 1 year ago
Margaret Brownley has done it again! I can always count on her to provide a completely satisfying romance blended with mystery, crime, and adventure. This final installment of the Undercover Ladies series is definitely my favorite from her so far. Katie is a wonderful Pinkerton operative, different from any of the other “Pink” women in her series. Her own set of observation skills paired with the handsome sheriff, and reluctant love interest, is perfect for the hunt of the Harvey Girl Killer. While her observation skills were envious, they were human. As a woman, she has a strong personality, but with the vulnerable undertone we all try to hide. She is a character who draws you in and molds you into her. Her emotions, thought patterns, and uncertainties are complex and real. She is my absolute favorite character developed by Margaret Brownley thus far. Sheriff Branch Whitman is his own strong character with a past that emotionally attaches you to him. His is the tall, strong hero who is not really intimidated by an equally strong-minded woman. He is wounded, yet gentle. He is intelligent, but a complete buffoon at times. I love him to no end as a character. There is a restrained passion that emerges and evolves naturally as the story progresses. Honestly, it made me want to curl up in my husband’s arms and feel that strong connection Katie and Branch have but fear to acknowledge. It is a love that feels real and not just the pat on the back, superficially love found in a lot of romance novels. The plot is fantastic with several twists, turns, and added layers which hold your attention from beginning to end. While the murder does seem to drag on, it was a realistic drawing out of how murders are not solved in an hour. I don’t wish to give anything away, but let me assure you every layer is addressed satisfactorily, and all loose ends are tied up. I highly recommend picking up Calico Spy if you like historical crime solving mixed with romance. Margaret Brownley is a master.
wfnren More than 1 year ago
Pinkerton detective and Harvey girls, great story indeed Another winning story by Margaret about the Pinkerton detectives and an added bonus of the Harvey girls! I really enjoyed this story, I admire the ladies that were detectives in that period, very unheard of then. I can highly recommend this book as a good read! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
In her latest detective series release, Calico Spy, Margaret Brownley introduces Katie Madison. She’s a spit-fire, red-headed, sure-footed Pinkerton Detective who pulls out all the stops when it comes to taking down the villain. Katie Madison isn’t like her sisters. Maybe she could have been had her one sister not up and married the man she loved. With nothing left to lose, Katie signs on with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. As far as her daddy was concerned, she made her bed and all that was left to do was lie in it. Katie had a natural flair for surveillance. She could separate a no-do-gooder from a law abiding man any day of the week including Sunday. She was a good girl and practiced her faith always and perhaps in due time, her daddy would understand the path she chose to mend her broken heart. Her latest undercover assignment took her to the far reaches of the Kansas plains and her cover was waitressing. However, she wasn’t your typical run of the mill waitress. Rather, she was a Harvey Girl; the best of the best with perfect posture, a beautiful smile and without question, a Harvey Girl always embraced the notion that the customer is always right. However, Katie Madison may be the Harvey Girl to change the image forever more. There’s a serial killer lurking in the shadows of the Harvey restaurant and while Katie’s fellow workers have no idea she is the plant in place to (hopefully) solve the crime, Katie needs to own her waitressing role and protect her cover. With the townsfolk on edge and little clues to go on, Katie wastes no time assessing the clientele. She was much better at surveilling than she was at memorizing drink orders. The last thing she needed was another distraction and that’s exactly what she was about to get the day Sherriff Branch Whitman sauntered into the restaurant. While it would seem they had a common interest in catching the killer, Katie wasn’t quite prepared for the extracurricular distraction Branch was about to provide. Margaret Brownley paints a believable picture of what life must have been like for a woman detective in a man’s world during the early settlement days. Brownley seizes ample opportunities to infuse situations of conflict between Kathie and Sherriff Whitman and uses this to her advantage as she weaves a sublime sub-plot of romance behind the scenes. Once the reader is hooked on such a notion, Brownley gets back down to her brass tacks by redirecting her readers back to the suspense of the overarching plot. The dialogue is credible and the characters are identifiable and likeable. I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Brownley’s previous work. However, Brownley has certainly struck a winning formula in Calico Spy. The story flows and it is rich with many occasions for a chuckle here and an aha moment there. Quill says: Calico Spy is a quick and enjoyable read that will have you rooting for the heroine with the turn of each page.
HumorMyWay More than 1 year ago
This is a Christian base story that is a clean read full of humor, mystery and a little action. Two women are killed they now have to find out who did it. The owner of the Harvey House restaurant calls in Pinkerton when the sheriff of this small town doesn’t have a clue to where to even start. Sheriff Branch Whitman has little use for the Pinkerton’s and doesn’t want them in his town. He is on the hunt for the killers along with the Pinkerton operative. Here it gets a little funny as he goes off half cocked on the hunt, Katie is about to tell the sheriff who she is until he opens his mouth and tells her what he thinks of the Pinkers. This was a very entertaining humorous read at times I chuckled and laughed. The author gives you a few stories inside that has your heart in your mouth wondering how this will turn out. I really enjoyed the characters I liked how Branch and Katie reacted to each other. You could feel the pull between them. I loved the Harvey ladies each having their own little mystery. Andy was adorable just cute as a button. Branch is a strong bullheaded man who mostly thinks women should be home. I wouldn’t really call him alpha just strong welled. He has had some hard times in his life. Katie has had a hard time as well. From her father to her boyfriends she doesn’t know who to trust. She is a lovely smart and strong welled. She will stand up to any man but she is still very much a lady. I loved how she worked out who the killer was, how she used what she had learned to find him. I enjoyed the plot along with the wonderful characters. This was well written and well thought out story. This is a Christian book that talks about faith and God but isn’t pushy. The story never gets boring maybe it has a slow start but it isn’t long before you are pulled in trying to help solve the mystery. There were a few times I thought I had it worked out but changed my mind for one reason or the other. In some ways I had it worked out and in others I was clueless. I liked that this had a light side to it with humor but they still took it very seriously. If you enjoy a clean, mystery with humor than this book is for you. I really enjoyed it.
swimreadbreathe4JC More than 1 year ago
Calico Spy" by Margaret Brownley is the third book in the "Undercover Ladies" series.  While I didn't enjoy the books of this series nearly as much as I did "Gunpowder Tea",  this was still a good mystery.  This can work as a stand alone novel, as really the only thing that carries over from novel to novel in this series is the theme of females being Pinkerton detectives.        The detective in this story Katie Madison, who is working as a waitress while she tries to solve the murder case of two girls who had previously worked at the same diner.  Her clumsiness makes it difficult to keep her cover, which I found amusing and relatable.        The sheriff of Calico is has never liked Pinkerton operatives, so he's caught off guard when he's attracted to this one.  What's different about her? Her clumsiness? Her care and concern for others? He's not sure, but he is very confused upon finding out her true identity.        Mystery-wise, this was a good story.  I liked the plot, but the characters didn't really stick with me.  The setting was run-of-the-mill: wild west, railroads, etc. I don't know; this book just doesn't stand out to me.  There wasn't anything wrong with it, there just wasn't anything exceptional about it.  However, the mystery kept me guessing and was almost unbelievable in how the characters came to the conclusion.        Thank you so much to Barbour Publishing and Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own and were not required to be positive.
WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
Another Pinkerton detective goes undercover, this time working as a Harvey girl, hoping to crack the case of two unsolved murders that has even the local sheriff stumped. Only problems are that the sheriff has a strong prejudice against Pinkertons, and she's avoided working in kitchens her whole life! The sparks fly when the cynical sheriff finds out her true identity, and the kitchen is literally set on fire by Katie, whose training seems harder to her than bringing down a tough criminal. Can they figure out a way to work together and find the murderer in time before he kills again? Funny situations, romantic tension, plenty of action and snappy dialogue made this yet another enjoyable read. Margaret Brownley's books never fail to make me smile! The interesting historical details that get worked into the story (also included at the end) made this feel very authentic. Those Harvey girls worked hard! Law enforcement had little to work with in the 1880's too, using mostly their intuition and attention to details. The mystery kept me guessing up to the end too, with plenty of red herrings thrown in along the way. The spiritual theme of trusting God came through clearly in both the main characters' lives. Recommend for fans of western themed Christian fiction! This is the third book in the series, but don't worry if you haven't read the others, as it is a stand alone. (You will want to read the other two after this though, so you don't miss any of the fun.) 4.5 stars (Book provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
The Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley is the third book in the Undercover Ladies series. Katie Madison (her undercover name) is a Pinkerton Agent. Her latest assignment is to go undercover as a Harvey Girl in Calico, Kansas (it is 1880) to find out who murdered two Harvey Girls. Katie is always successful at her assignments and believes this one will be no different (even though it is her first murder case and she has never been a waitress before). Sheriff Branch Whitman is puzzled by the two murders. How did the killer get the women outside the Harvey House? It is supposedly locked up tight at lights out. Why were these two women killed? Can Branch find the killer before he strikes again? The last thing Branch wants is a Pinkerton Agent in his town. He cannot stand them (they are usually very unscrupulous). Branch is hoping to dissuade the man and send him packing. Branch was not expecting a woman! Can Branch and Katie work together to solve the case? The Calico Spy was just a delight to read. I normally do not read westerns, but I thought I would give this book a chance since it contained a mystery. I am so glad that I did. The novel is well-written with enjoyable characters. I just zipped through this book. It will have you laughing out loud. The Calico Spy is the third book in the series, but it can easily be read alone (as I did). The Calico Spy has mystery, humor, and a little romance. All great traits for a very good book. The mystery is simple and extremely easy to solve (but that did not bother me). I received a complimentary copy of The Calico Spy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
lsnlj More than 1 year ago
This is book three in the Undercover Ladies series, however they are all stand alone novels. Katie Madison has never felt like she stands out, especially compared to her sister. So being an undercover spy is right up her ally. When she meets the handsome Sheriff, will they be able to work together? It seems she is always hitting a dead end in her quest in finding the murderer. Katie must also discover if she can truly trust a man again or not. Branch Whitman has never thought much of Pinkerton detectives, yet he is more than surprised to find the new Harvey Girl is an undercover spy. Will he truly trust her and work with her or is she just more trouble than she is worth? When the past comes crashing down and secrets come to light will he be able to trust God and do what is right? This novel is full of mystery, suspense, romance and surprises. I love the dialogue between the characters. It is very well written. I was given a copy of this novel from net galley for my honest opinion.
Jaquelyn More than 1 year ago
Calico Spy is Book 3 in the Undercover Ladies series. I have read books one and two, but don’t feel that you need to in order to enjoy this book. It is great as a stand alone title. The Undercover Ladies series follows female Pinkerton detectives on the case of their lives. In Calico Spy, Katie Madison is sent to Calico to find out who has killed not one, but two Harvey girls. And it’s her job stop them before another one gets hurt. But she’s not the only one who feels that way. Branch Whitman, the town’s sheriff has never met a Pinkerton Detective that he’s liked, and doesn’t feel like starting now. Katie sparked an interest the first time he met her, but he doesn’t need another woman in his life. When they finally decide to work together to solve the case they find out that they make a good team. Will they be able to solve the murders before it’s too late? Can Branch take a chance on finding a partner for life? This story is full of twists and turns. Margaret Brownley made all of the characters interesting and I enjoyed getting to know them. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, This wasn’t the first book I have read by Brownley and it won’t be my last. I received a copy of this book from Shiloh Run Press and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.