The year is 1915. War has been declared in Europe, the U.S. is on alert due to the sinking of the Lusitania, and there’s been a murder in New York City that needs to be solved. So begins Radha Vatsal’s debut novel A Front Page Affair, presumably what is to be the first in the “Kitty Weeks Mystery” series.
I am not a huge fan of historical novels per se, but I can’t pass up anything having to do with New York City, so when I heard the author being interviewed as part of a “Reading With Robin” Literary Series in Bryant Park, I was drawn to this story from the start. The time period, when women surprisingly enough, were writing, producing, and directing films, as well as holding positions in many prominent fields also intrigued me.
The feisty Capability Weeks, better known as Kitty, is a writer for the New York Sentinel who has been relegated to covering stories for the “Ladies Page.” While working at a party attended by high society, one of the guests winds up dead. Kitty becomes enmeshed in the story and soon realizes that one and one don’t add up, making for a very complicated tale that involves foreign intrigue and may even change the course of history.
The determined heroine who’s been raised in Europe and struggles to find her niche in the US, does not comply with the rules that conventional 1900’s culture tries to impose upon her. She drives, runs her father’s household, and is very much her own person. She wants more than anything to be treated as a serious journalist and this story may just catapult her into that realm. I found her to be high on the “likability index.”
The author’s skill at weaving an entertaining mystery and intertwining it among the strings of an historical setting is quite good. The story wends its way as quickly as Kitty does through the streets of Old New York in her bright yellow Bearcat. Scattered in with the unraveling of the murder are interesting details about the city, world events, and life during that period. Their inclusion is deftly handled, and seems to fit in rather well with the narrative.
Ms. Vatsal has put together a highly engaging story for her debut. I look forward to reading more of her writing and hope she has more escapades for Capability Weeks up her literary sleeve.