Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

World War I - San Francisco


Young Mrs. Cavendish and the Kaiser’s Men

by K.K. Beck

The United States is on the verge of sending soldiers to aid its allies engaged in the protracted war in Europe. Within the U.S. borders, German spies are trying to thwart this effort by creating a military event which will distract the U.S. by involving it in a formal state of war with Mexico. Meanwhile, other spies from countries like Bohemia seeking their independence from the yoke of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, have their own anti-Kaiser spies in place. Because of a mistaken identity, Maude Teasdale Cavendish, a divorcee at age twenty-nine, becomes drawn into these plots and counterplots. Since she is a reporter for the San Francisco Globe, she actually embraces her dangerous position, hoping that her insider reporting can give her a byline on the newspaper’s front page. Maude has been stuck reporting on society events. In spite of her protests, her editor insists that this is the only place appropriate for a woman. “You're good at this social business and besides, you’re a lady.”

Beck gives considerable space to a variety of other period characters, including young Louise Arbor whose command of her fancy motor car has given her unchaperoned freedom to go where and when she wants. Maude also represents the “new woman” given her divorcee status, work in a mainly male-only field, and vocal support of women’s suffrage.

The book provides a solid depiction of place through reference to the Arizona/Mexican border desert, the San Francisco 1906 earthquake and fire, the city’s steep hills, and flowering of the Peninsula Hills watered by the winter rains. Society’s fascination with new forms of transportation, such as the aeroplane, zeppelin, and motor car, also feature in the plot.

No historic notes are provided. This is a nice companion read to two U.S. WWII espionage thrillers reviewed here: Margit Liesche’s Lipstick & Lies, and Dorothy Hughes’ The Blackbirder.



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