Smugglerific Cover

A Smugglerific Cover (& Giveaway): The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan

Today we are delighted to unveil the cover for upcoming (April 2015) middle grade historical novel The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan.

Behold: the Smugglerific Cover!

Detectives Assistant Cover large

The incredible tale of America’s first-ever female detective and her spirited niece!

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. Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate . . . and not just by helping out with household chores.

That’s because 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.

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!


Kate Hannigan on the book

Great big thanks to the Book Smugglers for helping me introduce The Detective’s Assistant. I am thrilled to be able to share the book’s cover, and I am so grateful to illustrator John Hendrix for doing a bang-up job.

I think John captures the energy and vitality of this book really well. It’s the story of eleven-year-old Nell Warne, who has been plunked down on the doorstep of her long-lost aunt, Kate Warne, in Chicago in 1859. Life immediately kicks into high gear for Nell, as her aunt reveals herself to be working as one of Allan Pinkerton’s detectives. Let the adventures begin.

The story is inspired by the real-life experiences of Kate Warne, a woman I’d never heard of until I stumbled upon a single sentence about her while researching another book. Pinkerton writes that when Kate Warne walked into his office in downtown Chicago, he assumed she was applying for a secretary job. But Kate Warne convinced Pinkerton of the value in hiring a woman: that she could go where no man could, befriending the wives and girlfriends of the city’s criminals and finding out intimate details of their wrongdoings. Pinkerton took to the idea, and Kate Warne was hired on August 23, 1856.

She was one of Pinkerton’s most reliable operatives, and in many of his books, he praises her tact, skill, and commitment. Kate Warne was considered a master of disguise, posing as a fortune-teller and other roles, and she helped solve train robberies, murder cases, and more.

Her biggest case came in 1861 as Abraham Lincoln made his way by train from Illinois to Washington, D.C., to be sworn in as president. Tensions were high across the country, and rumors of plots to kill the newly elected president were swirling. In order to reach the White House safely, Lincoln finally agreed to allow Pinkerton to whisk him through the turbulent city of Baltimore in the dark of night, thwarting what has come to be known as the Baltimore Plot. Only two detectives escorted Lincoln on this dangerous train ride: Allan Pinkerton and Kate Warne.

I’m always looking for great heroines in the books I choose. From Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins to Delphine in One Crazy Summer to Hermione in the Harry Potter series. But so often, like Hermione, the girls are left on the sidelines to tsk-tsk while the boys get to have wild adventures. I wanted to write a book where the girls are right there in the thick of it, having white-knuckle moments of action and adventure and messy thrills the way any boy would. So good-natured Nell joins Kate Warne in her detective work, and we get to see two females have all the fun.

The cover captures that headlong rush toward peril and mayhem that I was going for in writing The Detective’s Assistant. I am delighted with John’s take on Nell, with her many disguises tumbling behind her as she races on to the next adventure. I can’t wait for April, when readers get to meet them both.


About the Author

Kate Hannigan

Kate Hannigan lives on the South Side of Chicago, where she writes fiction and non-fiction for children. One of her favorite things to do is research important questions like, Would a train rider in 1860 sit on a bench made of upholstery and springs or one of hard wood? What sort of flowers bloom in Philadelphia in March? Would a kid in 1859 say “cahoots”? Her early middle-grade series Cupcake Cousins is publishing with Disney-Hyperion. Say hello online at and on Twitter @KateChicago.


The Giveaway

To celebrate the cover reveal, we are giving away three Advanced Reading Copies of The Detective’s Assistant! This giveaway is open to addresses in the US and Canada only, and will run until Sunday, August 31 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Heather Grove
    August 25, 2014 at 7:34 am

    That’s an adorable cover! Not my usual sort of read, but I’ll have to eventually see if I can find this at my library; it sounds like fun!

  • Lydia
    August 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

    One of my favorite MG historical series is Catherine Jinks’ Pagan’s War (and sequels, although they don’t match the original) — about a street-smart, irreverent former monastic novice from Jerulsalem during the Crusades.

    But while we’re on the subject of historical middle grade mysteries, I have to mention the immortal Detectives in Togas!

  • Katharine O
    August 25, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Right now my favorite is “Crispin: The Cross of Lead” by Avi, and the sequels. Love the middle ages stuff, and you don’t find it in MG books too often.

  • Sharon
    August 25, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Richard Peck’s Blossom Culp books, hands down! The first one (The Ghost Belonged to Me) is from another point of view–her neighbor Alexander Armsworth–but she really steals the show all the way around. They take place in the early 1900s, and they’re absolutely charming.

  • Mary Anne
    August 25, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Caddie Woodlawn? The Little House books? There’s one called “The Reb and the Redcoats” that I still love to read. Written by Constance Savery and takes the POV of some British kids in England whose grandfather is chosen to house an American POW (this is during the time of the American Revolution). Many of Sally Watson’s books – “Lark” is my favorite, mostly because that’s the one the public library had and I read it over and over as a kid. Her books take place in Britain, Scotland and America from Elizabethan times through the American Revolution. There are tons more, but those are what spring to mind – obviously I am incapable of ever picking a favorite.

  • April V.
    August 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

    The first historical MG book that pops into mind is The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt. I loved it. I guess is isn’t really historical since it is set in an alternate reality but it is close enough for me!

  • Stuti
    August 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

    When you reach me and The Wednesday Wars-except they’re not really historical, are they? I love all the same though. Tbh, when it comes to historical fiction, I mostly prefer MG books because YA and adult ones only get me all riled up without providing any catharsis. SO exhausting.

  • Lexi
    August 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

    The Shakespeare Stealer was a great series. I always enjoy that time period.

  • Saskya Jean
    August 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    The mighty Miss alone

  • Kicha
    August 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Well, I assume MG is middle grade? I don’t have one but I do have in my TBR collection pile, Lois Leveen’s ‘The Secret of Mary Bowser,’ and Jefferson Morley’s ‘Snow-Storm in August.’ Ms. Hannigan’s books seems like a really interesting read.

  • kathy
    August 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    I can’t wait to read and share with some friends!

  • Leone Castell Anderson
    August 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    I love doing research, blending real people into fictional stories.
    I’ll look forward to reading your The Detectives Assistant. Sounds fascinating. LCA

  • de Pizan
    August 25, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    My favorite MG historical is probably The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman.

  • Lisa
    August 25, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    The Detective’s Assistant sounds great! The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis was devoured by the MG reader in my house.

  • Chelsea B.
    August 26, 2014 at 12:16 am

    A Series of Unfortunate Events– it’s been awhile, but I’m pretty sure it was historical! Or at least, a while back!

  • Rachel G
    August 26, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I loved The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, and I remember being sort of obsessed with Eva Ibbotson’s MG books (Journey to the River Sea and The Dragonfly Pool especially).

  • Lan
    August 26, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  • Amy
    August 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I loved The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle

  • Loki
    August 26, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Like Sharon above, my favorite MG historical fiction remains the Blossom Culp books.

    The cover on this one, however promises great fun, and I look forward to reading it!

  • Joel
    August 27, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    “Boundless” by Kenneth Oppel was my latest historical read. Pretty good, and from the Canadian perspective, too.

  • jennie t
    August 28, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I am having trouble remembering many titles at the moment, but I read every word of the Little House series several times.

  • Michelle Kogan
    August 28, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Earlier this summer I read One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, and was really captivated by it!

    I’m looking forward to The Detective’s Assistant, and it looks like the cover has captured the movement of the story!

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