Monday, June 25, 2012

The Girl is Trouble by Kathryn Miller Haines

Back in March, I introduced you to Iris Anderson, 15 year old girl sleuth living on the Lower East Side in NYC.  In that first novel, we learned that her mother had inexplicably committed suicide.  Her death brought changes in live of Iris and her dad, a vet who lost his leg in Pearl Harbor.

The Girl is Trouble opens just a few weeks after The Girl is Murder ended.  The first anniversary of Pearl Harbor is approaching, Iris is still attending PS 110, and hanging around with and confiding in her best friend Pearl.  The Rainbows, the school badies, are still mad at Iris for events that occurred in the first novel, including Benny, Iris's crush. In other words, Iris's life is status qua at the moment.

But then, all that changes.  First, Iris is asked to investigate a series of anti-Semitic notes being left in the lockers of the students who belong to the Jewish Student Federation.  Then, she finds a strange man outside her house after school one day who wants her to tell her private detective Pop that Stefan says hello.  And Pop is definitely upset when she gives him the message.  Lastly, when Pop accidentally leaves his safe open, Iris goes snooping and finds two sets of photographs.  The first set are random, candid pictures of her taken from a distance, the second set are of her mother in the hotel room at the White Swan on East 86th Street where she supposedly committed suicide - only the photos don't look like a suicide, they like more like a murder.

Suddenly, Iris has a lot on her plate, but first and foremost she needs to finds out what happened to her mother.  But Pearl refuses to go to the Upper East Side, a German American neighbor at the time, because  she tells Iris Jews are no longer welcomed.  Iris determines to go alone, but as she is sneaking out of school, she runs into Benny, who offers to go with her.

In the hotel room at the now abandoned White Swan, they are confronted not only with her mothers blood splatter on the walls and mattress, but by a man holding a gun.  Turns out, he is the estranged husband of the woman, Anna Mueller, who found Iris's mom.

And so, off they go to the biergarten (beer garden) where Anna Mueller now works.  She confirms that she found the murdered Ingrid Anderson, and called the police and was handsomely paid to keep her mouth shut and say it was a suicide.  Turns out, Anna was well paid, she now owns the biergarten.

Meantime, at school, more students in the in the Jewish Student Federation have received anti-Semitic notes and they are getting really annoyed at Iris for not really doing anything to find the person or persons responsible.

This is an awful lot of responsibility for one 15year old girl to shoulder, but Iris feels determined to find her mother's killer, no matter what.

OK, that is as far as I can go without giving away too much, after all, this is a mystery.  And it is a good one.  I thought the The Girl is Murder was also good, but it is a introductory first novel in a series, so they tend to be focused on familiarizing the reader with the recurring characters, the general setting, so the mystery may not be so interesting.  For that reason, I did find The Girl is Trouble to be more intensely focused on the mystery.

Kathryn Miller Haines has once again written a realistic historical fiction mystery, full of the kind of detail that a reader can sink their teeth in and though Benny teasingly calls Iris Nancy Drew, this book is not nearly as tame as a Nancy Drew mystery (don't get me wrong, I still love Nancy Drew books).  And she has filled in the personalities of characters like Benny, Pearl and Pop more, making this second novel feel even more realistic. Maybe Haines has even given Pop a new romantic interest.

1939 German American Bund march on East 86th Street NYC
As you can see from the photo on the right, Yorkville, my current stomping ground, was indeed a hotbed of Nazi support, but it was also a hotbed of anti-Nazi sentiment.  The German American Bund, seen marching here and which is a the heart of this story, did exist, but was outlawed after the US entered the war in December 1941.  Naturally, the Bund continued underground, as Haines shows in this novel.  But, it should be noted that besides Germans, there were also lots of Irish and Italian in Yorkville at the time.  Yorkville isn't very German anymore, but there are still traces of its Germanic residents, mostly shops and churches.

The Girl is Trouble will be released in July 3, 2012 and if you like a good YA mystery, this is a book for you.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was obtained as an ARC

If you want to read an except of The Girl is Trouble, be sure to visit the website of Kathryn Miller Haines.

This is book 1 of my Cozy Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Debbie's Book Bag!!
This book is book 5 of my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry


  1. As a girl who loved Nancy Drew, I bet this book would have been perfect for me back in the day. I don't read YA all that much anymore, but it is always nice to see a new YA book that isn't about vampires, lol!

    1. Yes, I agree, it is nice to read YA without vampires. These are fun in a different way than Nancy Drew, but I still love Nancy too.

  2. I agree with thegirlfromtheghetto so nice to read about something other than vampires! Each time I read one of your reviews, I instantly want to read the book - this is another one!

    1. This was good. I especially liked it because it takes place in such familiar neighborhoods, which is fun to read about once in a while. I actually have found some vampire stories set during WW2, I just haven't read them yet - maybe one of these days.

  3. This was one of your reviews that I start reading thinking,"Well, this topic will not interest me much," but after a paragraph or two, I am caught up in the story. This sounds like a really good YA read, and also a look into a fascinating bit of NY history. The picture of the Bund on 86th Street is amazing. Of course, I remember when 86th was still very German, with Cafe Geiger,the Bremen House etc. -- but no longer the Bund, happily!

    1. I used to love walking around Yorkville when the old German stores and restaurants were still here. Now it has lost all its personality and charm. I always like the history part of the books I read when it is done well and it was in this one. (and I wish the Bremen House was still around)

  4. I have this series down on my TBR list after reading your first review and now this one. This story is a mystery- which I love and I always enjoy books about this time period. I think the cover is well done. I love that you included a photo of the area. Thanks!


    1. This is shaping up to be a good mystery series. The first one, like most first books in a series, was more introductory/explanatory than mystery, but this one is really good. I hope you enjoy it when you read it. It should be right up your alley.