Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Louise's War by Sarah R. Shaber

Sarah R. Shaber launched a new historical mystery series with a fascinating view of  Washington, D.C. during World War II. Although Louise’s War is one woman’s story, Shaber’s details bring the war years to life.

Louise Pearlie is a twenty-nine-year-old war widow who left South Carolina to work for the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) as a clerk with top secret clearance. No one in the house where she boards knows she is anything other than a clerk. It’s a top secret file that turns her world upside down. One folder has information about Gerald Bloch offering information to the Allies so that he can get his family to safety, out of Vichy France. And, Louise knew Bloch’s wife, Rachel. Rachel was Louise’s college roommate, and Louise felt she owed a debt to Rachel. The women were so close, they had promised to name their daughters after each other.

So, Louise passed on the file, hoping to help her Jewish friend get to safety. She felt she had done her best, until the man who was helping her was found dead in his office. Now, Louise was determined to do anything she could to rescue her friend and her family.

Shaber inserts three chapters relating Rachel’s experiences, but the focus in the mystery is on Louise, the narrator, as she tries to rescue her friend. However, the details of life in Washington, D.C. in 1942 were the most interesting parts of the book. The summer of 1942 was stifling in D.C. (What summer isn’t?) But, most people didn’t have air conditioning, or as Louise phrased it, “The apartment was refrigerated.” There’s the comment after the man’s death. The “Funeral was tomorrow only two days after he died. That was fast. Of course, it was extremely hot this summer and ice was in short supply.” There’s information about the shortages of sugar and gasoline, silk stockings. And, Louise attends a party at Evalyn McLean’s. Mrs. McLean owned and wore the Hope diamond that night. It was a party attended by Alice Roosevelt Longfellow, Clark Gable, and General Bill Donovan, head of the OSS.

Louise Pearlie is an appealing heroine, an intelligent woman trying to determine her role in a changing world. But, Shaber’s strength, and the appeal of Louise’s War, lies in the description and details of the war years and life at the time. I can’t wait to see where she takes Louise in the next years.

Sarah R. Shaber’s website is

Louise’s War by Sarah R. Shaber. Severn House. ©2011. ISBN 9780727880406 (hardcover), 194p.


Liz said...

Have enjoyed Shaber's Simon Shaw Mysteries. This should be interesting.

Lesa said...

I hope you enjoy this one as well, Liz.

Karen C said...

Interesting. Not sure if it's for me, but added to the list.

Lesa said...

It was a fascinating book, Karen. But, then, I went to grad school in Washington, D.C., so it wasn't even just the details of the war years that I found interesting, but also the details about D.C. at the time.

Janet Rudolph said...

Great review. Check out Sarah's wonderful post about the research for the book on Mystery Fanfare:

Lesa said...

Thanks, Janet. Heading there right now to read it.

carol said...

Thanks for the review which sent me to LOUISE'S WASR.

This book was especially meaningful to me as my parents met in Washington in 1939, at my aunt's boarding house. They had come to DC to work for the government (though not at the OSS)and my dad was from NC. So the wonderful sense of place is fascinating for me. I'm passing the book on to one of my daughters.