A bright young woman fights sexism and government red tape to solve a murder during World War II.
Bryn Mawr graduate in chemistry and physics Libby Clark, desperate to get a job helping in the war effort, finds that jobs for women are few. In Detroit for the April 1943 meeting of the American Chemical Society, she’s offered a job by Eastman Kodak that’s shrouded in secrecy. After an orientation in Rochester, she follows a circuitous route to the secret city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. There, she’s housed in a dorm with many other young women, none of them scientists. Libby soon becomes friends with her roommate, Ruthie, a Tennessee girl who shows up on Christmas Day with her flighty sister Irene and a bottle of Jack Daniels. The next morning, Ruthie bursts in to tell the hung-over Libby that Irene never came home. Together, they find her strangled at the football field. Abruptly sent home, Ruthie begs Libby to investigate. She’s threatened and stonewalled by the Army, and her job hangs by a thread, but she refuses to give up. Only her brilliance at her job, which involves purifying uranium, keeps her there. To solve the mystery, Libby enlists the help of several of her fellow scientists. Although some of them are opposed to women working, they follow the scientific method in an effort to discover which of the many men Irene dated had a motive for murder.
An intriguing change from Fanning’s Lucinda Pierce series (Chain Reaction, 2014, etc.) bolstered by thought-provoking details of the obstacles women faced in the wartime workforce.