In the last couple months I have read four different books about the impressive and intriguing Kate Warne. She was the first female detective in America who joined the Pinkerton Agency and played a role in many significant cases–including foiling as assassination attempt of President Lincoln. She convinced Pinkerton to defy tradition and hire her, because as a woman she was able to go places and solve cases that men couldn’t.
There is a limited amount of information that is for sure known about her (since so many files were destroyed in The Great Chicago Fire) and it was really neat to see how four different books interpreted and adapted her story. The pieces that are known show up in each story with plenty of room for imagination left in the fictional stories.
The books were written for a variety of age levels and my son loved the picture book biographies that were right for his level. He kept talking about Kate Warne and explaining everything she had done.
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Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective by Marissa Moss
I really liked the way this picture book biography brought in Kate’s love of stories and how she viewed her detective job as telling the stories that she needed to in order to complete the cases. This one covers her background, a lot of details about her first case of the Adams Express Company (a high profile theft that helped the Pinkerton Agency establish their great reputation), and then has additional information in the back of the book.
How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
This picture book biography talks a little bit about the Adams Express case, but it mostly focuses on her role in foiling as assasination plot of Abraham Lincoln. I had never heard of this event before and found it so interesting!
The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan
In this Middle Grade novel the story is told from the perspective of Kate Warne’s fictional niece which really provided a fresh and enlightening view of Kate. Her traits (both good and bad) are seen in a different light when we see her through a lonely child’s eyes.
The story was very fun, fast-paced, and entertaining. Nelle is a loveable main character with all her sassiness, stubbornness, and cleverness. Her interactions with her aunt were very interesting to read. At times I thought things felt a little contrived to be able to fit Nelle into an important role in Kate’s cases, but overall I really enjoyed seeing Nelle as a detective’s assistant.
I actually listened to this one as an audiobook and the narrator did a really great job with it! I loved the voices she used for all the different characters.
Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister
This adult novel provides a more mature perspective on Kate. It was a really engaging read and I would have flown through it if I didn’t have so much else going on at the time. It was really hard to put down each time! Stories of spies/undercover agents have always been fascinating to me and I really liked how it showed both the excitement and the very real struggles of that lifestyle.
The historical time period was really interesting and I loved seeing Kate Warne through so many pivotal parts of that history and interacting with several other actual people from history. All of her character development and moral dilemmas were fascinating and all of the cases she was involved in were exciting.
Content: Many different mentions of sexual situations (such as seductions by undercover agents), but not graphically described.
Edited to add:
In November 2018 a new picture book biography was released that also relates to Kate Warne! It is a biography about her employer Allan Pinkerton and how he came to be in the position he was. There is some mention and illustrations of Kate Warne included and the story of how Pinkerton and Kate Warne worked together to save Lincoln’s life.
The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln by Marissa Moss