Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.
Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.
I enjoyed the unique storytelling throughout this book. While the main narrative is through Maddie, there are rotating, seemingly random, POV chapters to provide context. Occasional chapters from the Lady in the Lake are common, but there are plenty of standalone chapters from side characters who generally wouldn’t contribute much to a plot. It kept the narrative fresh and prevented it from becoming too one-sided. Also, Maddie can be a lot to handle – she’s very selfish and pigheaded and self-centred – so it helps to see her from other perspectives and to also get a break from being inside her head.
Set in the ‘60s, Maddie leaves her husband, seemingly at random, and pursues a job as a reporter – which is something that everyone is telling her she can’t do. Because she’s a woman, because she’s almost 40, and because she doesn’t have what it takes. Tired of living for other people, she doesn’t listen and uses pure luck, and the characteristics that would make her very tiring in person, to bully her way in and create sources and stories.
Above all of this, I found the actual story to be incredibly interesting. There’s mystery and intrigue and a whole cast of characters that aren’t what they seem to be. Covering race, gender, and religion, there are very few topics not explored through the lens of the ‘60s backdrop. Well-written, well-executed, and wholly intriguing, I would highly recommend.