It’s 1895 when the New York City orphanage that cared for fourteen-year-old Carver Young announces its closing. Rather than be tossed to the streets, Carver sets out to find information about his family. When he breaks into a locked cabinet at the orphanage, he hits the jackpot. His personal file contains no details—just a handwritten letter from 1889, perhaps from his father. It says his mother is dead, but could his father be alive and looking for him? Carver makes it his mission to find him.
At an open house for families wishing to take in the misplaced orphans, Carver sees his chance to learn true detective skills. If he can convince Teddy Roosevelt, New York City Police Commisioner, to take him on Carver knows he can get the help he needs to track down his father. Instead of aligning himself with the police, however, Carver’s adopted by a crippled old man—a retired Pinkerton detective who’s struggling with his own hidden demons.
Suddenly, Carver finds himself thrust into the underground world of the New Pinkertons—a secret revival of the world-famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. The New Pinkertons are set on solving a series of murders haunting the city and frustrating the corrupt police force. If they can catch the killer, they’ll be legitimized, no longer forced to work in secret. Carver would love to help out, but he’s given his own assignment as a test—continue the search for his father. A killer on the loose and a missing family member, two totally different tasks which the reader knows from the start will eventually come crashing together.
Like any good mystery, there’s lots of elements at work here—a slew of false starts, characters with their own agendas, tricks, tools, and gadgets, a killer who loves to taunt the authorities, famous and infamous figures from history, and a band of young teens who are always one step ahead of the adults on the chase. While staying rooted in fact, there’s lots of fun to be had imagining the author’s invented components. And this reviewer found it immensely satisfying that the illusive Ripper is revealed and named for those of us who still wonder about the monster’s true identity. Pick this one up if you enjoy a healthy dose of imagination with your history and mystery.
Review by Erin – CLP, Allegheny