The Detective's Assistant

The Detective's Assistant 
By: Kate Hannigan 

Release Date: April 17, 2015
Audience: Grades 4 and up 
Pages: 368 

"And suddenly I understood what it meant to have faith in someone. Faith wasn't about evidence and eyewitnesses, like with Aunt Kitty and Mr. Pinkerton's other detectives. Faith was something you knew inside- from your heart all the way to the tip of your toes."

The Story 

From Goodreads 

Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt's doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it's the miserable Home for the Friendless. Her aunt is immediately hesitant to take Nell in. Nell's father killed Kate's husband. 

Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate...and not just by helping out with household chores. For Aunt Kate is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present. It is up to Nell solve the biggest mystery of all and to find out what happened to her uncle and prove her father's innocence. 

Based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and danger...including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!


Two things I liked about the story:

1. The main character, Nell, has a African American best friend.  As they write each other throughout the book, they discuss the racial issues, underground railroad, and abolition. This is such a sneaky way to teach kids about these issues!

2. It brings to light the history of Kate Warne & gender roles. The book also covers how Kate Warne saved Abraham Lincoln from an assassination attempt. I loved that it highlighted this. Girls can do anything!


 My biggest concern is that I felt like it was too long for most middle graders. This would have been better if it covered one or two mystery cases. My middle graders tend to like things that are about
150 -250 pages.  If it is anything more, their little eyes go big and they ask for something else.

With this, I think it will only appeal to my eager reading historical fiction lovers. Unfortunately, there is just not a lot of these kids.

Overall, I do feel like this is a face paced and exciting read.

I will try my best to sell this one to my library kids.


At Graceland Cemetery

Interview with the Author

Discussion Questions

Non- Fiction Book Pairings 

Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye


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