War Against Miss Winter (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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The War Against Miss Winter
Kathryn Miller Haines, 2007
317 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
September 2007

Rosie Winter is a master of the cool quip and cocky comeback—trademarks of the "hard-boiled" detective genre of the 1920's and '30's. Conjure up an image of Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, correct for gender by tossing in Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday, and you've got Rosie.

She's the smart and smart-mouthed heroine of this clever new crime story set in New York against the backdrop of World War II. In fact, war and violence are played out everywhere in this story: on the world stage, the New York stage, and in Rosie's life.

It's the New Year, and poor Rosie, a young actress down on her luck, hasn't landed a part in quite a while. But when her part-time detective boss commits suicide—by hanging himself with his hands tied behind his back—Rosie takes on the leading role as gumshoe to find his murderer. Kathryn Miller Haines uses her knowledge of theater—both practical and academic—to create a terrific plot with enough twists and turns to keep a dancer on her toes.

Start with the Shakespeare line quoted by one of the characters: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," and you've got a front row seat. On stage of off, no one is who or what he seems; everyone plays a role.

Miss Winter is a delightful, smart, fast-paced read, moving back and forth from light-hearted and funny to serious and academic. The book attempts to be both entertaining crime caper and novel of ideas, and sometimes the tone shifts are jarring: Rosie-street-smart turns into Rosie-academic-theoretician. Yet all that's minor. In the end, Haines ties it all together...and leaves room for a sequel in the making. I'm waiting.

See our Reading Guide for The War Against Miss Winter.

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