Media & Press

Imagining History: Molasses Murder in a NutshelVIEW YOUTUBE VIDEO

Imagining History: writing Death on the Homefront   VIEW YOUTUBE VIDEO



McNamara has a keen eye for zeroing in on how a metropolis can fuel and deplete the human spirit.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“As in The Devil in the White City, this yarn takes place in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, and like in that nonfiction bestseller, murder intrudes on the city’s cultural uplift with surprising consequences. The novel is well written.” Publishers Weekly

“Pay-to-play politics, an Olympic-sized plan to keep Chicago on the world’s stage and plenty of Irish cops and bureaucrats around to preserve, well, the order of things in this big city. Sounds like a collection of headlines from today’s papers, but these are the actual story lines moving through Death at the Fair, which chronicles a fictitious murder mystery exposing the underbelly of the very real World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.”
Lisa Donovan, The Chicago Sun-Times, 'Our Fair Lady - U. of C. librarian focuses keen eye on city's history in murder mystery', Chicago Sun-Times (online), 8 Feb 2009 D9 

“Details concerning the operation and the people of Hull House, along with an overview of the deplorable living conditions faced by immigrants (and the lack of concern for the poor expressed by the city’s businessmen and politicians) give this novel a rich historical framework, made all the more poignant by the portrayal of the smallpox epidemic of 1893.” —Booklist

“This fast-paced, enjoyable historical mystery does an excellent job plunging readers into the hubbub of activities at Hull House and the chaos resulting from the spread of smallpox. There’s a lot going on at once, but the many plot threads are laid out cleanly…Readers should come away from Death at Hull House with newfound respect for the women social reformers of the late 19th century, and the difficulties they faced creating a bridge between the two halves of Chicago society.”

"McNamara’s suspenseful third Emily Cabot mystery (after 2009’s Death at Hull House) convincingly recreates a pivotal moment in American labor history.... Cabot fearlessly throws herself into both the murder investigation and the struggle to keep the violence from escalating. Besides plausibly depicting such historical figures as Eugene Debs and Nellie Bly, McNamara throws in some surprising twists at the end. Laurie King and Rhys Bowen fans will be delighted. Publishers Weekly March 2011

“McNamara, a librarian at the University of Chicago, proves, if anyone was asking, that librarians make great historical mystery writers. She captures the tension of the times between the male and female scientists, both professionally and personally…Also so accurately portrayed is that small-town-in-summer feeling, when towns are overtaken by visitors, who coexist uneasily with locals. This was my first Emily Cabot mystery, and as a fellow Chicagoan, I was initially disappointed this was set outside the city, but that feeling didn’t last long. I’d follow Emily to any location.”— Ellen Keith, Historical Novels Review

“This is a fun, satisfying read for a summer afternoon à la hammock or back porch.”— The Barnstable Patriot

“Fascinating history underpins the tale…fans of historical mysteries should…enjoy this visit to 1896 America.” —Publishers Weekly

“This enjoyable mystery set in a historically accurate Chicago features a strong sense of time and place…The book is a solid period story, with a plot that holds together, an interesting lead character, and strong historical detail…vivid action sequences and family drama [are mixed] with the main crime narrative…The writing is well paced, with a large number of dialogue-driven scenes and a first-person narrator keeping the story moving.”—Jeff Fleischer, Foreword Reviews


“McNamara’s charming sixth Emily Cabot mystery captures the Art Nouveau ambiance of Paris during the opening of the World’s Fair of 1900. The first key scene, set in the hallowed fashion house of the couturier Worth, demonstrates that the author is a dedicated follower of fashion…Historic figures, such as the impressionist painters Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas…mingle easily with the fictional cast. Rapacious mothers, intent on seeing their offspring married to titled Europeans; jewel thefts; and murder accessorize the plot.” —Publishers Weekly


"Set in 1918 Chicago, McNamara’s excellent ninth Emily Cabot mystery (after 2020’s Death on the Home Front) finds Emily’s physician husband, Stephen, serving on the front lines of the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Meanwhile, Emily gets drawn into a murder investigation involving Flora Murphy, a notorious gambling king’s second wife, who’s accused of shooting her younger lover. When Emily discovers that two of her children—Jack, a physician who served in France, and Lizzie, an aspiring sculptor—were friends of the victim, Emily must follow them into the notorious Bohemian circle of the Dil Pickle Club, where revolutionaries, mobsters, and intellectuals such as Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Sherwood Anderson once congregated to read poetry and discuss politics. The shooting death of a man at the club raises the stakes. The real-life characters mingle seamlessly with the fictional ones to capture the myriad contradictions of Chicago, from the dirty politicians and gangsters who run the city to the idealists, intellectuals, and revolutionaries who are committed to social change. This timely novel informs as much as it entertains." (PW starred review)


"Historical mystery readers who enjoy female sleuths and action firmly centered in realistic portraits of the past will find Death in a Time of Spanish Flu a compelling story. It's set in 1918 and opens with a premonition of disaster and madness. Husband Stephen's worries about the emergent Spanish flu are only the beginning of the story. His wife Emily finds her world in turmoil as Stephen fights the virus in a hospital while the world falls apart in war, and her family follows. The already-complex scenario is further complicated by a murder that motivates Emily to become involved when her children are implicated in the death. With so many facets and conflicts emerging from the start, it takes a deft writer to draw readers into a scenario which juxtaposes social issues, political strife, home life, and solving murders. Frances McNamara is such a writer, capturing the personal observations, lives, and approaches of believable (and likeable) characters who find themselves caught up in situations beyond their ken or control.
Emily's first-person observations of her world and those around her feature her astute eye for trouble as she probes a murder which proves to be deeply routed in community and chaos. All this is set against the backdrop of a plague and war that represent ongoing explosions in her life.
The action is nicely paced, the premise and mystery are unpredictable, and the historical backdrop of the times is so realistically integrated into the plot that readers will find it a snap to absorb its atmosphere, principles, and the sense of changing times.
There is also the added value of familiarity that has been provided by current pandemic years, which makes the publication of Death in a Time of Spanish Flu especially timely and attractive.
Although it's the 9th book in the Emily Cabot series, newcomers to Emily and her times will find Death in a Time of Spanish Flu stands nicely alone as a solid introduction to her life, world, and approach to problem-solving.
Libraries looking for powerful blends of history and mystery which present a sense of place that feels familiar and is engrossing to modern readers (even those who normally don't read books from either genre) will relish the realistic and personal portrait that makes Death in a Time of Spanish Flu hard to put down." (Midwest Book Review)


Molasses Murder in a Nutshell

 “Overall, Molasses is a real treat. Settings and back stories about the time period run smoothly. Particularly delicious is the unexpected denouement. This reader, for one, looks forward to the next Nutshell mystery.” Historical Novel Society


"One of the challenges of anyone writing historical fiction is to tell a compelling story while getting the setting and the time period 'right.'  Frances McNamara masterfully accomplishes both with Molasses Murder in a Nutshell -- a riveting read that occurs amidst the sights and sounds of the early 20th century.  What more can lovers of historical fiction ask for?" Stephen Puleo, author of Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Three-Decker Murder in a Nutshell

“Once again, Frances McNamara brings together the “dynamic duo” of Frances Glessner Lee and Dr. George Magrath, who use the evolving field of forensic science to lead the reader through their methodical journey of investigation. Magrath’s decades of experience and Lee’s inquisitive mind that “work(ed) with the accurate precision of a railroad watch,” according to Perry Mason novelist Erle Stanley Gardner, chart a course that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, until the clues sprinkled throughout the story come together for an exciting conclusion.” William Tyre, Executive Director and Curator Glessner House




For press inquiries and personal appearances please contact:

Frances McNamara
Rudiyat Press
2 Hawthorne PL 8D
Boston, MA 02114