Review: The Whispering Women by Trish MacEnulty

Today, I'm thrilled to share my review of The Whispering Women, the first instalment in an exciting new mystery series set in 1910s New York, by Trish MacEnulty

It's currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club, so make sure to check out all the fascinating posts here. The author's guest posts are well worth reading.

The Whispering Women

A Delafield & Malloy Investigation

Trish MacEnulty

If you're looking for an intriguing mystery series with intelligent women protagonists, look no further!

The Whispering Women begins with a topic that was as taboo now as it is still today, over 100 years later, in some areas: abortion. 

Silvia, a young maid in the household of the influential Garrett family, becomes pregnant by Hugh Garrett, as she would have risked her post had she denied his advances. Now, arrangements have been made for her to have an abortion. Her friend, fellow maid Ellen – a recent Irish immigrant – insists on accompanying her, as does the household chauffeur. But when Silvia has a fatal reaction to the anaesthetic, she dies, and when two men want to take Ellen away, in place of Silvia, she realises that the girl would never have been allowed to return to the house had she survived, but taken to a brothel.

Feisty Ellen fights the men off and flees, but has nowhere to go now. She can't return to the Garretts’ as she'd be apprehended. The secret can't come out. Desperate, she seeks out other Irish emigrants for help, and makes the acquaintance of an Irish detective.

Meanwhile Louisa Delafield, impoverished daughter of a murdered man who'd gambled away their fortune, finds herself destitute when their annual allowance that keeps her, her mother Anna, and maid Suzie, going is stopped. The pot is apparently empty. 

A reporter with a local paper, Louisa earns little money, especially compared to her male colleagues. In her column, she reports on social events only – an area her new editor thinks little of – but now she needs to find a way of earning more money.

Their paths cross when Ellen is temporarily placed in Louisa's humble home for her safety, and Louisa begins to take an interest in what's going on, especially as she is a friend of the Garretts. Doubts creep in, but she still can't believe her childhood friend, Hugh, would behave so despicably. 

As the police investigates, Ellen and Louisa start digging into the story, trying to identify the doctor who performed the illegal abortion. And it transpires he has friends in high places, putting both their lives in danger. 

The Whispering Women is a gripping story, illuminating the social aspects of the times. Louisa is only permitted to attend society events because her family used to belong to the circles, but is still avoided by many due to that fact. Whilst she tries to fit in, she knows her new place. This gives her a sense of independence. Her mother's fate depended on her irresponsible father, and Louise never wants to find herself in that situation. Her transition from society girl transforming into an independent woman as the plot progresses is emotional, and shows up the snobbery of the times. 

Ellen fled Ireland to avoid marriage to a man. But Ellen feels herself drawn to women, so she was already cursed in the eyes of her family. America offered a new opportunity, but with Silvia's death – and the social injustice it entails – makes Ellen a determined young woman. But even she has little choice but to accept her fate when the Garretts accuse her of theft. 

The Whispering Women is a book you can't put down. It's gripping, utterly compelling, and the plot races from one dangerous incident to another, leaving you with a sense of anticipation of what happens next. The novel is very well researched, and the author takes great care to portray the social upheaval at the time – the abject poverty vs high society; the suffragette movement where Ellen meets Hester; and the injustice of the fate women face(d) at the hands of powerful men. These topics are still as valid now as they were then.

If you're looking for an engaging, intelligent mystery that makes you think and question the norms, this book is for you. It's one of the best novels I've read so far this year. The characters are flawed, very different to each other, but they grow throughout the plot. The setting is gritty and described in great detail. You can just immerse yourself into a world of opportunity – and of grave danger. And the masterful plot is utterly gripping. I can't wait to read the next instalment.

A highly recommended read.


“Richly drawn characters, the vibrant historical setting, and a suspenseful mystery create a strong current that pulls readers into this delightful novel. But it’s the women’s issues—as relevant today as they were in the early 1900s—that will linger long after the last page.” — Donna S. Meredith, The Southern Literary Review

Can two women get the lowdown on high society?

“Two powerless young women must navigate a soul-crushing class system and find the levers of power they wield when they combine their strengths. These women may have been taught to whisper, but when their time comes, they will roar.” — 5 Star Amazon Review

Louisa Delafield and Ellen Malloy didn’t ask to be thrown together to bring the truth to light. But after Ellen witnesses the death of a fellow servant during an illegal abortion, Louisa, a society columnist, vows to help her find the truth and turn her journalistic talent to a greater purpose.

Together, these unlikely allies battle to get the truth out, and to avenge the wrongful death of a friend.

What will our heroes do when their closest allies and those they trust turn out to be the very forces working to keep their story in the dark? They’ll face an abortionist, a sex trafficking ring, and a corrupt system determined to keep the truth at bay.

“If you like historical fiction and if you like mysteries, this one is for you!” — 5 Star Amazon Review

Was change possible in 1913?

To find out, read THE WHISPERING WOMEN today!

Buy Links:

The books in this series are available to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Universal Link 
Barnes and Noble

About the Author:

Trish MacEnulty

Trish MacEnulty is a bestselling novelist. In addition to her historical fiction, she has published novels, a short story collection, and a memoir. A former Professor of English, she currently lives in Florida with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. She writes book reviews and feature articles for the Historical Novel Review.

She loves reading, writing, walking with her dogs, streaming historical series, cooking, and dancing.

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