Review: Calico Spy (Undercover Ladies #3) by Margaret Brownley

calicospy_brownley_barbourPinkerton operative Katie Madison’s newest case takes her to Calico, Kansas, where two Harvey House restaurant waitresses were murdered in mysterious circumstances. Calico’s sheriff, Branch Whitman, has never met a Pink he liked and is stunned to learn the pretty redhead’s true identity as she works undercover as a Harvey girl. A tornado hits town, and a past deception puts Branch’s eight-year-old-son in danger. Now the Sheriff has no choice but to work with Katie—or chance losing everything he holds dear. (from


I thought the last story I read by her might be my favorite Margaret Brownley so far, but now I’m pretty sure this is it!  Calico Spy has such a great premise, includes wonderful historical elements (Pinkerton agents and Harvey Girls), a heartwarming (or heart wrenching, depending on how you look at it) custody issue, an interesting murder mystery involving two Harvey Girls, and 19th century style sleuthing. On top of all that, a good dose of humor, action, and a hero and heroine to root for along with a fantastic and colorful cast of secondary characters.

When I reviewed the second book in the Undercover Ladies series, I mentioned how delighted I was to read about a female Pinkerton Agent.  Here, I was doubly delighted, with an even more engaging heroine and her masquerade as a Harvey Girl (and the derringer she carries strapped to her thigh).  For much of the dialogue between the Harvey Girls, I was hearing the voices of 1940’s and 1950’s actresses.  Especially with Tully, who is a minor character but whose dialogue is just a riot.

The male characters are no slouches either.  Branch ranks right up there with some of my favorite men of historical fiction, but it is with several of the secondary male characters that Brownley really shows a talent for quickly establishing strong characterization.  The Harvey employees are entertaining, Mr. Harvey himself is a complete hoot, and the jail cell dwellers (reminiscent of Mary Coneally’s Now and Forever mountain men) are a fun counterpoint to the more serious and (when it comes to winning Katie’s heart) slightly clueless but honorable Sheriff.

This is an Inspirational Romance that will entertain and uplift without preaching.  Margaret Brownley excels in including faith as part of her characterization, rather than inserting it to conform to preconceptions of the genre.  Highly recommended for those who enjoy Historical Romance set in the dusty, tornado prone American Mid-West populated by Pinkerton Agents, Harvey Girls, rugged Sheriffs, ghost cats, volatile French chefs, adorable eight year olds, and elderly ladies with a twinkle in their eye.  If I were to make a list of books that I’d love to watch as a movie, this would be on it!

This review refers to a review ebook read courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley | Barbour Books, Jan. 1, 2016 | review ebook


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