A newsgirl in Prohibition-era Chicago aspires to be a reporter for the Tribune like her idol, Maude Collier.
While selling papers, Isabel overhears a gunshot after one of her regular customers heads into an alley. Running to help, she finds Miss Giddings standing over a man’s body, a gun lying on the ground. The dead man is Miss Giddings’ fiance, Mr. Bessemer, who, unknown to her, was an associate of Al Capone. Miss Giddings is arrested and sent to the infamous Murderess’ Row. Isabel believes in her innocence and is determined to uncover the truth. Maude is willing to help, especially since it will help her get the best angle for sensational front-page stories. Fast-moving, short chapters are narrated by the sassy Isabel, whose speech (“Jeez, what kind of bee was in his bonnet?”) captures the flavor of the era. It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine a 10-year-old able to manage this dangerous an investigation, but it’s entirely believable that Isabel collects her clues without regard to who might be paying attention to her, including the real killer. Fantaskey bases this story on the women who broke the gender barrier to become crime reporters in the 1920s. A historical note gives the background on the real Murderess’ Row at the Cook County Jail.
This lively mystery should appeal to fans of Harriet the Spy. (Mystery. 9-12)