Murder Between the Lines
by Radha Vatsal
Murder Between the Lines is the second novel by Radha Vassal about Kitty Weeks, a beginning journalist in an age when the rare female journalist is by default a writer for the women’s pages. The setting is 1915-1916, the U.S. has not yet entered the Great War, Woodrow Wilson is president, and women do not have the right to vote.
The “Kitty” in the first third of the book is a flat, undeveloped character. At first I thought this problem was a reflection of the way women were treated by men and by other women as a social norm. Later in the book, however, Kitty takes on some depth as the plot picks up its pace.
There are several plot threads. They deal with women’s suffrage, political intrigue and an anti-war movement, women as journalists, women’s education, Edison’s inventions, and several deaths. The author manages to tie the threads together, but some resolutions seem forced.
The author researched the era well, and the information was interesting. Of particular note was the apparent frailty of the “weaker sex” and doctors’ views on women’s health and recovery from accidents.
It is difficult to sort out attitudes about the characters given the freedoms and responsibilities women in the U.S. have today. Are the women in the book weak or are they victims of the time? I think the answer may be a little of both. Women were generally dependent financially on men, but there have been women of every era who were powerful and knew how to wield that power. In Kitty’s case, she has to break down social barriers to achieve financial independence.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks (Landmark) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction
1. At the end of the book, the reader will find Author’s Notes that stress the author’s use of primary sources as well as suggestions for further reading.
2. Beautiful cover art!
Publication: May 2, 2017—Sourcebooks (Landmark)
“Half of our population cannot be treated as less than the other. The cause requires publicity as well as a definite program. My program is to champion a federal amendment to the constitution and to use my wealth and my position in society—for in the end, no one turns their back on money—to create news, to create publicity for us all.”
As far as Kitty could tell, men were just as petty as women, but when they didn’t get their way, they didn’t resort to intrigues—they started wars.
When it came to matters he cared about, the president didn’t hesitate for a moment to campaign around the country to sway hearts and change minds. But when it came to woman suffrage, he took refuge behind states’ rights. Somehow, war warranted the exercise of his powers of persuasion, while campaigning for half his citizens’ rights did not. No wonder so many women were enraged. No wonder so many felt they must browbeat and threaten, take matters into their own hands.