A Veil Removed
A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel #4
She Writes Press, April 2019
Short intro: Clive and Henrietta Howard return to Chicago after his father’s unexpected death; whether or not Alcott’s death is the accident it seems is unclear.
Clive Howard was an Inspector for the police before his return to Chicago. When his father dies in an apparent accident, Clive is called home from his honeymoon to manage the family business. Clive and Henrietta had made other plans, plans which are tossed by the wayside in light of this recent death. The Howard Detective Agency is not, at least for now, an option. This does not, however, mean that Clive and Henrietta are done with detecting. Based on discoveries made by Clive as he takes over the business, the two decide that Alcott’s tragic demise was no accident. Finding out who killed him will answer a myriad of other questions. Why? Why now? Where’s the money? Who can Clive trust? How much does his mother know, if anything? What does Alcott’s partner, Bennet, know? Who is Susan? The list goes on. Every stone the pair turns over leads to another rock or another hard place. Trying to deal with all of this, and the business, and his grieving mother . . . Clive is under considerable pressure. As tenuous connections to Henrietta are solidified, the pressure only gets more intense.
Henrietta has problems of her own to confront. Her younger sister Elsie is “a fallen woman”, having succumbed to the charms of a ne’er-do-well. The family, meaning Clive’s mother and Elsie’s grandfather, believe her best option is to make the best marriage she possibly can under the circumstances; a love match is out of the question, given her poor taste so far. Elsie is not enthused about this option; she is also not truly in a position to do what she wants, even if she knows what that is, which is pretty much not the case. She knows she does NOT want to marry the men who are interested in her, no matter how honest they are about their motives, which are not all that pure. Henrietta thinks Elsie should go to college – a local, Catholic college run by nuns and affiliated with Loyola. Elsie is smart, although she doesn’t think her self-taught knowledge is good enough to get her into any college. She is wrong, and Mundelein College proves to be a wonderful place for Elsie. She does have some delightfully collegiate interactions with the boys from Loyola. The German custodian brings some adventure into her life, although certainly nothing that anyone would have thought of, given the chance. Elsie, of all the characters, probably makes the greatest leap in personal knowledge and growth over the course of the novel. It’s a pleasure to read.
There are other sub-plots and story lines, some of which connect previous books in the series to this one. There is ample room for at least one or two more books about Clive and Henrietta, given some of the loose ends left lying around. Chicago in the 1930s has so much to offer a historical novelist: gangs, high society, the changes in technology, societal mores shifting, the immigration landscape changing. Cox mines what she needs for her story, and makes it all work very nicely. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Clive and Henrietta, although the sex scene in the middle did seem VERY gratuitous, considering the general tone of the book around that scene. Other than that, I’m inclined to go start reading this series from the beginning.
Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, May 2019.