Nellie Bly is a household name in the world of undercover journalism with her game-changing expose on the Bellevue Women’s Asylum. Then she undertook a flight around the world, in a hot air balloon, in an attempt to beat the record of Verne’s Phileas Fogg.

The author builds on this amazing true story of Bly to give her a fictional story to track down. The entire case is built upon true events and real people, and feels only a half step away from reality.

The poet Emma Lazarus, most famous for her poem “The New Colossus” inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, has recently died. It was known that she was seriously ill and would not live for long. Friend Joseph Pulitzer, however, is convinced that she had been poisoned. Fresh from her story on the conditions in the asylum, Pulitzer (currently the editor of The New York World), asks her to investigate her death.

Bly uses her native skills and nose for journalism to question the likes of Jay Gould, Richard Gilder, Charles DeKay and Henry Hilton. She tracks her story in and around the opening of the Metropolitan Opera, the speculation on Long Island’s Montauk Point, immigrant issues, and affairs around Civil War veterans. In this competitive newspaper climate, Bly was the only female reporter working actual stories. Most were relegated to fashion columns or gardening tips (as was Bly before her asylum piece). This too is well-presented.

Nellie Bly
Nellie Bly

Nellie was not one for poetry. She preferred newspapers and serials in magazine. But part of her job at the Dispatch had been to proofread copy, and occasionally the paper would print poetry, as did most newspapers of the day. A few of Emma Lazarus’s poems appeared in the Dispatch, though at the moment Nellie couldn’t remember them. ~Loc. 376

And even though the story doesn’t appeal to Nellie at first, she sense of fairness and desire to punish wrongdoing soon outweigh her own interest.

The author gracefully weaves all of these elements (and many more) into an engaging mystery and adventure. The reader races along with Bly as she uncovers the truth of the final hours for Emma Lazarus, and beyond. Occasionally, the reader has the advantage of knowing what is to come for NYC, adding to the amusement.

Though this is a novel, there is enough of the truth to give it grit and keep you reading. It’s a well-done effort of historical fiction, with a strong, flawed and realistic female protagonist.

Many thanks to Diversion Books for the e-galley.

File Size: 5680 KB
Print Length: 303 pages
Publisher: Madison Square Books (March 23, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

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