Fans of historical mystery novels are often attracted to stories which feature amateur sleuths, prominent settings, majestic homes, and set in a specific time and place in history. Award-winning author R. J. Koreto takes these elements and skillfully adds a contemporary twist to craft a mystery that’s sure to please any reader interested in stories that link past and present. The Greenleaf Murders includes all the classic elements of historical fiction and more. The story is set in contemporary New York City and centers on a high-society family still holding firm to their grand mansion built in the Gilded Age, and whose secrets might well lead to danger for people involved.
The contemporary challenges of renovating a historic home are exacerbated by the presence of an elderly family member who steadfastly refuses to move out, forcing the renovation crew to take place around her. Adding to the challenge is the unexpected reticence of the legal owner who is evasive about his vision for the home’s future with Wren Fontaine, the young architect hired for the massive task of restoring the mansion to its early glory.
What begins as an incredible opportunity to restore a once-magnificent Gilded Age mansion soon turns into something sinister upon the discovery of skeletal remains in the attic and a present-day murder that’s soon followed by another. When Wren—an introvert who prefers houses to living people—discovers the police are only interested in the present-day murder, she launches her own investigation and quickly learns the gun that killed the person hidden in the attic is the same weapon used to kill the person who was recently murdered.
The author weaves history and architectural details throughout the story; by doing so, the mansion itself takes on the role of character and delivers tantalizing insights and clues about the people who called Greenleaf House home for generations. The historical, social, and cultural norms of the Gilded Age come to life through Wren’s exploration of the mansion and her research into the past.
Every character lends a unique perspective to the story, contributing essential information that moves the plot forward. Relationships, alliances, and emotional ties are complex; the dialogue reveals some characters have shared knowledge and experiences while other relationships are formed as the story progresses.
Unlike some other mysteries, the suspense is subtle and builds slowly as bodies are discovered and the murders appear to be linked to the mansion and the Greenleaf family. When a third murder occurs, Wren realizes she must rely on her wits, knowledge, and deduction skills to solve a mystery spanning a century. Our sleuth must navigate the many twists and turns as she searches for the truth about the long-dead victim in the attic but for the current Greenleaf generation as well.
Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York’s finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen’s 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who’s lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust. Wren’s job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client’s niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets. Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.
Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:
“A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages.”
Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives
“If you love houses and puzzles – which I do – you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto’s new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion’s heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur.”
Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series
“The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight.”
L.A. Chandlar, national best selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series
“One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written “The Greenleaf Murders.” Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended.”
Brendan DuBois, award-wining and New York Times bestselling author
Last night, Wren had dreamt she went to Manderley again. When she was fifteen, her mother had given her a copy of Rebecca, saying it was one of her favorites. A voracious reader, Wren finished it in a few days, but her reaction was not what her mother had hoped for. “Rebecca was horrible, but Maxim was no prize either. And the second Mrs. De Winter—kind of wimpy.” “You didn’t like anyone in that book?” asked her exasperated mother. “I liked Mrs. Danvers. I know she was insane, but she really appreciated the house. If people had been nicer to her, maybe she wouldn’t have burned it down. The best part of the book was Manderley. I’d have liked to live there, in splendid isolation, and Mrs. Danvers would take care of things. She was the only one in the book who knew how to do something.” Her mother just stared. What teenaged girl talked about living by herself in an ivy-covered British mansion? She kissed her daughter on her forehead. “Wren, you really are an old soul.” But although Manderley was her first love, Wren proved fickle, and also fell in love with Holyrood House, Blenheim Palace, and Versailles. A succession of guidance counselors worried about Wren, although she gradually learned to make friends, and even go on dates. However, nothing could replace her love for houses, and it was a foregone conclusion by college that she would become an architect like her father and spend as much time as possible working with houses and not people. And not just any houses, but the kind no one had lived in for a long time. As Wren approached 30, her father made her a junior partner and told her if he could close the deal with Stephen Greenleaf, he’d let her take full responsibility for Greenleaf House. Once the proposal they had worked on so hard had been completed, Wren couldn’t think about anything beyond spending her days in that Gilded Age gem, one of the largest private residences ever built in New York City. Over the years, like the second Mrs. De Winter, she dreamed of Manderley, never more than when she was hoping for the Greenleaf job. She came home late one evening after visiting a job site and found her father in the study of the home they still shared. Living at home had become a temporary convenience while she was at graduate school, which turned into a habit, as they liked each other’s company. Not that either would admit it. She watched him sketch. Although the firm had an office in midtown Manhattan, her father preferred to work in the study of their Brooklyn townhouse. For normal work, she knew it was safe to interrupt him, but not while he did the sketches—his avocation, his passion, just him and his pencils, creating columns and cornices, chair railings, and gargoyles. The only light poured from the desk lamp, illuminating the fine paper and her father’s high-domed forehead. She wanted to know if he had heard anything—but had to wait patiently. Eventually, the scratching stopped, and he put his pencil down. “If you haven’t eaten yet, Ada left her spaghetti and meat sauce in the refrigerator. She’s a fine housekeeper, but that particular dish is a little common.” “Only you would describe a dish of pasta as ‘common.’” “You know what I mean. And if you don’t understand the context, you shouldn’t be an architect.” “Fine. But I think it’s delicious.” “Yes,” he said, with a touch of impatience. “I didn’t say it wasn’t delicious. I said it was common.” He swiveled in his chair and smiled. “But you’re really here to ask if I’ve heard from Greenleaf? I told him today that we couldn’t put aside our other projects indefinitely. And that Bobby Fiore was the only contractor we could trust, and we couldn’t ask him to postpone other jobs, so with a few arguments about the price, he agreed.” Wren laughed, did a little dance, and punched the air. Then she ran and hugged her father, which he tolerated. “I knew you’d convince him. You are the most wonderful father.” “Wren. Take a seat.” He said it in his even, measured tone, the one he used for serious discussions. Wren wiped the smile from her face, pulled up a chair, and tucked a rebellious lock of hair behind her ear. In the half-dark room, he took her hands in his. “I have no doubt that you have the technical skills for this job. My concern is the personal skills. These are the Greenleafs. They were a force in this city when it was still New Amsterdam. We see their house merely as an architectural jewel. The family sees it as a symbol of how tightly they are tied to the history of this city. They are different from other people.” “People are people,” she said. “First of all, no. People are different. And even if you were right, people are not your strong suit.” “I’ve worked well with our clients,” she said defensively. “You referred to one of our clients as ‘a pompous bourgeois vulgarian.’” Wren rolled her eyes. “Let’s not go there again. I didn’t say it to his face, just to you.” “Do you think you hid your feelings?” “You’ve said worse,” she countered. Then realized she had lost the argument when his eyes went up to the framed certificate on the wall—the Pritzker Prize, often called the Nobel Prize of architecture. I’ve earned my right to arrogance. You have a long way to go. “Just remember that these people pay our bills. I know we often work to protect them from their own worse instincts, but let’s try to be a little more politic. Your mother used to say you lived in your own special world. But you have to join the rest of humanity every now and then. And that brings me back to Greenleaf House. This is the very important symbol of what was once one of the most important families in this city. Keep that in mind when dealing with Stephen Greenleaf.” “We’ve already had several meetings, don’t forget. He didn’t seem that unusual to me—runs his own asset management firm. I’ve dealt with Wall Street types before. It won’t be a problem.” “Wren.” Again, heavy on her name—all her life, this had been the sign of a serious conversation. “The Greenleafs made their money before there was a Wall Street. People like this are unusually touchy about their families and histories. Now that you’re actually starting, his behavior may change. There could be some emotional repercussions. To make this a success, you will have to watch out for those feelings and manage them.” “And you’re about to say—again—that I understand houses but not people.” “Let’s just say it’s more of an effort for you. You can work with people. You just don’t like to. But I made you a partner. So you can’t just do the fun parts of your job. You have to do it all.” “Yes, father,” she said. He was serious, so there could be no more pushback from her. No verbal fencing. He wanted her to live up to his expectations. “It isn’t your father who’s asking you, Wren. It’s the senior partner of this firm, Ms. Fontaine.” She nodded. “I understand, Ezra.” And then he lightened his face with a smile. “But before we move on to the particulars, there is one more piece of advice, this time from your father. It may be hard to remember in any residence we work on, but especially in one with more than 70 rooms, it is not just a house. It’s someone’s home. It was Mr. Greenleaf’s childhood home, in fact, and his aunt has lived there her entire life. You’re not very sentimental Wren—and that’s fine. Neither am I. But please remember that—it’s not just a building. It’s a home.” *** Excerpt from The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto. Copyright 2022 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies. In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College. With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Shifting and Shenanigans Virtual Book Tour October 10-21, 2022
Fiction—and mystery fiction in particular—opens the door to fascinating places where everyday life takes a backseat to adventure in a journey through the unknown. And when that journey includes talking cats, eccentric characters, and paranormal elements, the result is a spiced-up cozy mystery that delivers a storyline full of twists and turns before building to an unexpected conclusion. If this sounds like something you’d find entertaining, then the Magical Mystery Book Club might just be for you!
In Shifting and Shenanigans, the first of the three-book series, the internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Pantley introduces us to just-divorced Paige and her free-spirited Aunt Gloria. Together, the intrepid duo discover Paige’s great-grandmother Gee-Gee has bequeathed to them the Snapdragon Inn, a long-time favorite vacation spot in Cascade Valley, Colorado. And while inherited properties, family adventures, and book clubs are often found in cozy mysteries, this author takes a unique approach to these plot elements. The first big twist comes when Paige and Gloria venture down into the two-story library built beneath the inn—space that’s been locked and off-limits all their lives. Access to the library is limited to the eight book club characters, including Zell, a feisty octogenarian and a talking cat named Frank, who were part of Gee-Gee’s adventures in the past and who guide Paige and Gloria as they find others to join their club. Readers familiar with cozy mysteries will recognize some common themes, including the tradition of sharing food and drinks before settling into a discussion of the book the club has been reading. Those similarities carry over to this story, with each character contributing skills and supplies in addition to gathering meals in local restaurants. A shared passion for good food is just one of the multiple bonds developing between club members.
Similarities soon give way to the quirky and unexpected when the group explores the library, which is exclusively devoted to cozy mysteries. The discovery that each title is presented in a packaged set of eight books leads Zell and Frank to explain the more esoteric features of the book club—an explanation that is cut short when Paige impulsively grabs a copy and reads the first page aloud. In a flash, the phrase “let’s get into the book” turns to reality as the group—and the Snapdragon Inn—are magically drawn into the book and become characters in the story. Together, this eccentric group must find a way to work together and uncover the community’s secrets that led to murder before they can get out of the book and find their way home again. The suspense builds to an unexpected and totally satisfying ending, leaving the reader eager for more.
The author—who has written other paranormal books as well as popular non-fiction—combines the classic elements of a cozy mystery and paranormal fiction to create a unique series that’s an enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing how both characters and storylines develop in the second and third book of the series, which are now available for purchase.
Paige and her adventurous Aunt Glo inherit a country inn from eccentric GeeGee. They pack up and hit the road, arriving at the charming place they both loved since childhood. Finally! They can get into the secret room in the basement that GeeGee kept locked! They discover it’s a wonderful library filled to the brim with mystery books. But more than the room was a secret – it’s a magical place that houses enchanted books. Paige and Glo find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a murder mystery, along with a motley group of book club friends. The club will need to work together to solve the case in order to get out of the book and back to their home.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said the locksmith. He took a step back and scratched his head. He’d been at it for twenty minutes and still hadn’t opened the door. “It doesn’t make sense. This takes a skeleton key. It should be a simple task. People can do it with a couple of Allen wrenches. I’ve even done it with a pair of paperclips.” “So, what do we do now?” Glo asked. “Best thing is to contact a carpenter. Since the hinges are inside, he’ll have to drill the lock. It’ll destroy the lock and damage your door, though.” “We don’t have much choice. We want to get into the room, so we’ll have to do it,” I said. After the locksmith left, we looked up a couple of local contractors, but any openings were days away. We texted Theo but hadn’t heard back from him yet. We decided to start the day by sorting out the kitchen. There were plenty of dishes and dry goods, but the organization was an absolute mess. “How in the world did she work in this disaster?” Glo mumbled. “You’d spend half your time searching for things!” She was emptying out a cabinet. She pulled out an odd assortment of dishes, pots, cleaning supplies, and canned goods. She started to laugh and held up a hundred-piece puzzle in one hand and a shoeshine kit in the other. “Now this makes perfect sense.” She was snorting. “Make dinner, clean up, shine your shoes and do a puzzle.” I held up a few treasures from the cabinet I was working on. “And here you go. In case you need a spare pair of socks, a stack of plastic containers – no lids – and printer ink.” “It’s like a treasure hunt! It’s good for us to sort through all this anyhow.” “True,” I agreed. “Then we’ll know what we’ve got. Let me find some paper and a pen and we’ll start a list of things we need.” I began to sort through the typical drawers most people would use for things like pens and scratch paper, then groaned. “You know what’s in her junk drawers? Talcum powder, coffee creamer, clothespins, and aha! The soup bowls!” “Where’s the very last place you’d look for a pen and paper? Try that first,” snickered Glo. “Probably the bathroom,” I joked. “I’ll just make a list on my phone.” I opened another cabinet and groaned at the stack of boxes and plastic containers jammed into every inch. They were filled with random stuff. I took them to the table and dumped them out. “Holy Toledo! Glo, look at this!” I stood up and did a little dance around the kitchen. I shimmied over to her, then held up a very old-looking skeleton key. ~ ~ ~ “I feel like we should have a drum roll or a trumpet fanfare—” “—or fireworks!” laughed Glo. “At least a countdown. Five … four … three … two … one! Blastoff!” I turned the key and heard the click as it unlocked. “Houston, we have liftoff.” I twisted the knob and pushed the door open. There was a set of stairs to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs was another door. We opened it. Impossibly, there was another set of stairs. At the bottom of those stairs was yet another door. It required a skeleton key to open. I stared at the key in my hand. “You better work,” I told the key. The key worked smoothly, and I opened the door. Our jaws dropped and neither of us spoke. You could have heard a cotton ball drop. Finally, Glo broke the silence. “Holy macaroni! This is insane!” “How could she have kept this secret our whole lives?” I wondered. “WHY did she keep this secret?” Glo added. “This room is the size of the entire house! It’s enormous. Ginormous!” I whistled. “This secret space is underneath the inn! How is it two stories high? Is that even structurally sound? This is bizarre.” The room was indeed two levels high, connected by a brass spiral staircase. In the front area, where we were glued to the spot, was a large seating area with eight cozy floral patterned armchairs. A beautiful wooden coffee table sat in the middle. There was an antique globe on a brass stand, and a stone fireplace like the one upstairs. This one had an intricately carved wood mantle and a stone hearth. A large statue of a woman holding a book was centered on the mantle. “Look at all these books!” exclaimed Glo, spinning in a circle. “This is the library GeeGee referred to in her will! Remember? She said she’s putting us in charge. That it’s priceless!” “I am beyond confused, Paige. How is this even possible? GeeGee was just a sweet little innkeeper. She was the lady who baked us cookies and homemade stew. And she was hiding all this right under our feet?!” *** Excerpt from Shifting and Shenanigans by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2022 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.
Elizabeth Pantley says that writing her Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she’s ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the engaging stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful inspiration for her enchanted worlds.
A week that starts out with a woman’s dead body in the living room is not going to end well. Writer Leah Nash learns this truth when her friend Miguel arrives home on a Sunday night, only to discover that his weekend renter has failed to checkout—at least in the usual sense of the word. By Wednesday, Miguel’s uncle is arrested for murder.
The victim is the owner of SweetMeets, a website for sugar daddies in search of college-age sugar babies. Police investigators uncover an eye-witness who saw Miguel’s uncle at the scene. They find his fingerprints on the murder weapon, and they dig up a connection to the victim that he was anxious to keep buried.eek that starts out with a woman’s dead body in the living room is not going to end well. Writer Leah Nash learns this truth when her friend Miguel arrives home on a Sunday night, only to discover that his weekend renter has failed to checkout—at least in the usual sense of the word. By Wednesday, Miguel’s uncle is arrested for murder.
But Miguel’s uncle isn’t the only resident of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin with something to hide. As Leah and Miguel hunt for the real killer, they’re faced with half-truths and outright lies from local citizens desperate to keep their own secrets under wraps. In her most complex investigation to date, Leah must use all the smarts—and smart-assery—she has to find the killer’s true identity. When she does, everything comes together in a tense climax that tests her courage and reveals that she’s been keeping a few things secret from herself.
Genre: Mystery Published by: Himmel River Press Publication Date: November 2017 Number of Pages: 362 ISBN: 1979009821 (ISBN13: 9781979009829) Series: Leah Nash Mysteries #4 (Each is a Stand Alone Mystery) Purchase Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Goodreads
Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first-place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.
Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.
During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain’s Bar and Grill.
Genre: Mystery, NonFiction, History Published by: Beacon Press Publication Date: February 28th 2017 (1st Published April 26th 2016) Number of Pages: 248 ISBN: 0807039381 (ISBN13: 9780807039380) Purchase Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
A lively exploration of the struggles faced by women in law enforcement and mystery fiction for the past 175 years
In 1910, Alice Wells took the oath to join the all-male Los Angeles Police Department. She wore no uniform, carried no weapon, and kept her badge stuffed in her pocketbook. She wasn’t the first or only policewoman, but she became the movement’s most visible voice.
Police work from its very beginning was considered a male domain, far too dangerous and rough for a respectable woman to even contemplate doing, much less take on as a profession. A policewoman worked outside the home, walking dangerous city streets late at night to confront burglars, drunks, scam artists, and prostitutes. To solve crimes, she observed, collected evidence, and used reason and logic—traits typically associated with men. And most controversially of all, she had a purpose separate from her husband, children, and home. Women who donned the badge faced harassment and discrimination. It would take more than seventy years for women to enter the force as full-fledged officers.
Yet within the covers of popular fiction, women not only wrote mysteries but also created female characters that handily solved crimes. Smart, independent, and courageous, these nineteenth- and early twentieth-century female sleuths (including a healthy number created by male writers) set the stage for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, as well as TV detectives such as Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison and Law and Order’s Olivia Benson. The authors were not amateurs dabbling in detection but professional writers who helped define the genre and competed with men, often to greater success.
Pistols and Petticoats tells the story of women’s very early place in crime fiction and their public crusade to transform policing. Whether real or fictional, investigating women were nearly always at odds with society. Most women refused to let that stop them, paving the way to a modern professional life for women on the force and in popular culture.
Read an Excerpt
With high heels clicking across the hardwood floors, the diminutive woman from Chicago strode into the headquarters of the New York City police. It was 1922. Few respectable women would enter such a place alone, let alone one wearing a fashionable Paris gown, a feathered hat atop her brown bob, glistening pearls, and lace stockings.
But Alice Clement was no ordinary woman.
Unaware of—or simply not caring about—the commotion her presence caused, Clement walked straight into the office of Commissioner Carleton Simon and announced, “I’ve come to take Stella Myers back to Chicago.”
The commissioner gasped, “She’s desperate!”
Stella Myers was no ordinary crook. The dark-haired thief had outwitted policemen and eluded capture in several states.
Unfazed by Simon’s shocked expression, the well-dressed woman withdrew a set of handcuffs, ankle bracelets, and a “wicked looking gun” from her handbag.
“I’ve come prepared.”
Holding up her handcuffs, Clement stated calmly, “These go on her and we don’t sleep until I’ve locked her up in Chicago.” True to her word, Clement delivered Myers to her Chicago cell.
Alice Clement was hailed as Chicago’s “female Sherlock Holmes,” known for her skills in detection as well as for clearing the city of fortune-tellers, capturing shoplifters, foiling pickpockets, and rescuing girls from the clutches of prostitution. Her uncanny ability to remember faces and her flair for masquerade—“a different disguise every day”—allowed her to rack up one thousand arrests in a single year. She was bold and sassy, unafraid to take on any masher, con artist, or scalawag from the city’s underworld.
Her headline-grabbing arrests and head-turning wardrobe made Clement seem like a character straight from Central Casting. But Alice Clement was not only real; she was also a detective sergeant first grade of the Chicago Police Department.
Clement entered the police force in 1913, riding the wave of media sensation that greeted the hiring of ten policewomen in Chicago. Born in Milwaukee to German immigrant parents in 1878, Clement was unafraid to stand up for herself. She advocated for women’s rights and the repeal of Prohibition. She sued her first husband, Leonard Clement, for divorce on the grounds of desertion and intemperance at a time when women rarely initiated—or won—such dissolutions. Four years later, she married barber Albert L. Faubel in a secret ceremony performed by a female pastor.
It’s not clear why the then thirty-five-year-old, five-foot-three Clement decided to join the force, but she relished the job. She made dramatic arrests—made all the more so by her flamboyant dress— and became the darling of reporters seeking sensational tales of corruption and vice for the morning papers. Dark-haired and attractive, Clement seemed to confound reporters, who couldn’t believe she was old enough to have a daughter much less, a few years later, a granddaughter. “Grandmother Good Detective” read one headline.
She burnished her reputation in a high-profile crusade to root out fortune-tellers preying on the naive. Donning a different disguise every day, Clement had her fortune told more than five hundred times as she gathered evidence to shut down the trade. “Hats are the most important,” she explained, describing her method. “Large and small, light and dark and of vivid hue, floppy brimmed and tailored, there is nothing that alters a woman’s appearance more than a change in headgear.”
Clement also had no truck with flirts. When a man attempted to seduce her at a movie theater, she threatened to arrest him. He thought she was joking and continued his flirtations, but hers was no idle threat. Clement pulled out her blackjack and clubbed him over the head before yanking him out of the theater and dragging him down the street to the station house. When he appeared in court a few days later, the man confessed that he had been cured of flirting. Not every case went Clement’s way, though. The jury acquitted the man, winning the applause of the judge who was no great fan of Clement or her theatrics.
One person who did manage to outwit Clement was her own daughter, Ruth. Preventing hasty marriages fell under Clement’s duties, and she tracked down lovelorn young couples before they could reach the minister. The Chicago Daily Tribune called her the “Nemesis of elopers” for her success and familiarity with everyone involved in the business of matrimony in Chicago. None of this deterred twenty-year-old Ruth Clement, however, who hoped to marry Navy man Charles C. Marrow, even though her mother insisted they couldn’t be married until Marrow finished his time in service in Florida. Ruth did not want to wait, and when Marrow came to visit, the two tied the knot at a minister’s home without telling Clement. When Clement discovered a Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Marrow registered at the Chicago hotel supposedly housing Marrow alone, she was furious and threatened to arrest her new son-in-law for flouting her wishes. Her anger cooled, however, and Clement soon welcomed the newlyweds into her home.
Between arrests and undercover operations, Clement wrote, produced, and starred in a movie called Dregs of the City, in 1920. She hoped her movie would “deliver a moral message to the world” and “warn young girls of the pitfalls of a great city.” In the film, Clement portrayed herself as a master detective charged with finding a young rural girl who, at the urging of a Chicago huckster, had fled the farm for the city lights and gotten lost in “one of the more unhallowed of the south side cabarets.” The girl’s father came to Clement anegged her to rescue his innocent daughter from the “dregs” of the film’s title. Clement wasn’t the only officer-turned-actor in the film. Chicago police chiefs James L. Mooney and John J. Garrity also had starring roles. Together, the threesome battered “down doors with axes and interrupt[ed] the cogitations of countless devotees of hashish, bhang and opium.” The Chicago Daily Tribune praised Garrity’s acting and his onscreen uniform for its “faultless cut.”
The film created a sensation, particularly after Chicago’s movie censor board, which fell under the oversight of the police department, condemned the movie as immoral. “The picture shall never be shown in Chicago. It’s not even interesting,” read the ruling. “Many of the actors are hams and it doesn’t get anywhere.” Despite several appeals, Clement was unable to convince the censors to allow Dregs of the City to be shown within city limits. She remained undeterred by the decision. “They think they’ve given me a black eye, but they haven’t. I’ll show it anyway,” she declared as she left the hearing, tossing the bouquet of roses she’d been given against the window.
When the cruise ship Eastland rolled over in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915, Clement splashed into the water to assist in the rescue of the pleasure boaters, presumably, given her record, wearing heels and a designer gown. More than eight hundred people would die that day, the greatest maritime disaster in Great Lakes history. For her services in the Eastland disaster, Clement received a gold “coroner’s star” from the Cook County coroner in a quiet ceremony in January of 1916.
Clement’s exploits and personality certainly drew attention, but any woman would: a female crime fighter made for good copy and eye-catching photos. Unaccustomed to seeing women wielding any kind of authority, the public found female officers an entertaining—and sometimes ridiculous—curiosity.
Erika Janik is an award-winning writer, historian, and the executive producer of “Wisconsin Life” on Wisconsin Public Radio. She’s the author of five previous books, including Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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