I enjoyed Louise's War, Sarah R. Shaber's first mystery set in war-time Washington, D.C., but the second book, Louise's Gamble is even better. Shaber plunges readers into the life of a widow, a working woman in the middle of the war-time shortages and secrets.The suspense and details of life in 1942 all add up to a fascinating story.
Louise Pearlie's life in D.C. in 1942 is much different from her life growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina. At thirty, Louise lives in a boarding house and works as a file clerk for the OSS. She may be a clerk, however she has Top Secret Clearance because of all the documents dealing with Europe and Africa that she's responsible for indexing and filing. Louise doesn't even tell the other boarders where she works. But, one member of her knitting group invites her to lunch and tells her she followed her to work, and knows who she works for. Alessa di Luca tells Louise she's a refugee from Sicily with information to pass on to Louise's boss.
Louise's work life is upended after she informs her boss that she's been contacted by a refugee with information. Before she knows it, she's sent for training, has a handler who was once a prince, and is educated about Operation Underworld, the plan to cooperate with the Mafia to protect the ports of New York. When the OSS plans are cancelled because of a tragedy, Louise is unwilling to let go of her assignment. Louise Pearlie, a file clerk for the OSS, finds herself keeping secrets from the OSS as she launches her own investigation.
As I said when I reviewed Louise' War, I find all the history and social conditions in this book as fascinating as the mystery itself. Louise Pearlie represents the changing opportunities for women, and she realizes times are changing. "For a woman I had a good education and an important job. I had a junior college degree. I had Top Secret Clearance. I made a salary that would have been a fantasy a year ago. I no longer relied on my parents for a roof over my head. I no longer felt the pressure to remarry after Bill had died in order to get out of my parents' house. But I wanted more. I wanted to use all my brains, not just the part that knew the alphabet!" Louise observes the changing opportunities for women and minorities, while observing there are still separate standards and expectations for men and women. Louise's observes wartime Washington, with its secrets. She's the eyewitness to food rationing, clothes rationing, and the other conditions caused by war.
Each time Sarah R. Shaber shakes up Louise Pearlie's life, she shakes loose another little-known episode in history. Louise's Gamble deals with the Mafia and the Italian aspect of the Second World War. Each time I read one of Shaber's books, I'm eager for the next mystery and history lesson. Louise Pearlie is a courageous woman supporting herself and her country at a crucial time in history. And, each of her adventures takes readers deeper into history. I'm already waiting for the sequel to Louise's Gamble. In Louise Pearlie's world, it's only 1942. There's so much more war and suspense to come. I hope there's so much more of Louise Pearlie as well.
Sarah R. Shaber's website is www.sarahrshaber.com
Louise's War by Sarah R. Shaber. Severn House. 2012. ISBN 9780727881335 (hardcover), 182p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book from the publisher so I could read and review it.