Michelle Cox‘s Henrietta and Inspector Howard series is a delightful mix of historical fiction and intrigue with a bit of saucy lovemaking tossed in. In A Child Lost (She Writes Press), the fifth book, she adds spooky. 

Right away, we get swept into the story. We meet little Anna, the child referenced in the book’s title and the catalyst for most of the adventures that follow. By the end of chapter one, we’re worried about Anna, curious about her handsome caretaker and rooting for Henrietta’s sister, Elsie, who becomes entangled in their lives.

Where is Anna’s mother? And what about that kiss?

Elsie will have to figure out the kiss all by herself (and so will you — no spoilers here!), but she knows she needs help finding Anna’s mother who disappeared from Germany when Anna was just an infant. Henrietta and Inspector Howard, now married, are about to turn their amateur sleuthing into something professional by forming their own detective agency. Who better to get help from than Elsie’s sister and brother-in-law?

SLEUTHING COUPLE TAKES ON ODD NEW CLIENT

But there’s more than one obstacle for our heroes to overcome. Clive’s been trying to drum up business for their new agency, and his friend Frank from the local police says he knows someone who could use the inspector’s services. “Unconventional,” Frank calls the situation, which involves a concerned husband, a gullible wife and a fortune-teller named Madame Pavlovsky.

Add to this a brutal case of repeated domestic abuse, a little jealousy, a diagnosis of epilepsy and a disreputable insane asylum, and we’re off and running.

While Henrietta is getting used to the genteel living of the upper crust, having married into the Howard fortune, Clive is getting better at understanding his new wife. Together, they vow to find little Anna a home, as well as her mother.

The search leads them to the fetid wards of the Chicago State Hospital where the scheming Angel of Death moves silently among the dirty cots. There’s a séance, a kidnapping and a narrow escape — enough to keep the most demanding lovers of mystery occupied.  

MYSTERY FOR VETERAN READERS OF THE SERIES AND NEWCOMERS ALIKE

Cox seamlessly weaves plots and subplots together, leaving just enough to the imagination to keep her readers guessing till the end. Chicago natives will recognize place names and institutions that are the stuff of urban myths. Readers new to the series are teased with sly mentions of past mysteries and events. It doesn’t take long to get involved in the lives of Henrietta and Clive’s families, friends and enemies. In no time, new fans will be looking up Henrietta and Inspector Howard’s earlier mysteries, beginning with A Girl Like You, though they are not at all required reading to enjoy this latest installment.

That said, Cox has deftly dropped unfinished business into her chapters, making veteran readers eager for book number six. There’s a lot to look forward to. One of the patients in the asylum, wearing Henrietta’s hat and clutching a children’s book, tries to call up foggy memories. Elsie’s plans for her future are fraught with challenges. Does anyone care about the series’ beau, Stanley, or his broken heart? I mean, this is the second time! And now, Inspector Howard intends to run away with his wife. A second honeymoon?

“Don’t worry,” says Madame Pavlovsky about the inspector on the last page of the book. “He’ll be back.”

A Child Lost will be released on April 28, 2020. It is available for preorder now.

Michelle Cox is the author of the multiple award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard series, as well as “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a weekly blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. She suspects she may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, has resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting herself back there. Coincidentally, her books have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and many others, so she might be on to something. Unbeknownst to most, Michelle hoards board games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. Also marmalade.