I’m grateful to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read The Unknown Beloved from one of the best authors I’ve ever encountered, Amy Harmon.
This is a spine-tingling romance set against the backdrop of 1930’s Cleveland where a serial killer named The Butcher hunts the streets.
Based on a true story.
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From the bestselling author of Where the Lost Wander and What the Wind Knows comes the evocative story of two people whose paths collide against the backdrop of mystery, murder, and the Great Depression.
Chicago, 1923: Ten-year-old Dani Flanagan returns home to find police swarming the house, her parents dead. Michael Malone, the young patrolman assigned to the case, discovers there’s more to the situation—and to Dani Flanagan herself—than the authorities care to explore. Malone is told to shut his mouth, and Dani is sent away to live with her spinster aunts in Cleveland.
Fifteen years later, Michael Malone is summoned to Cleveland to investigate a series of murders that have everyone stumped, including his friend and famed Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, now Cleveland’s director of safety. There, in a city caught in the grip of a serial killer, Dani and Malone cross paths once again.
Malone is drawn to Dani and her affinity for the dead and compassion for the destitute. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that she could help him solve his case. As terror descends on the city and Malone and Dani confront the dark secrets that draw them together, it’s a race to find the killer or risk becoming his next victims.
A killer is playing macabre games with Cleveland police.
When patrolman, Michael Malone is sent to the home of a known gangster, he isn’t surprised to find the man lying dead in a pool of blood, though it saddens him that the man’s wife was caught in the crossfire. And worse than that, the couple’s ten-year-old daughter, Dani, barely avoided becoming a victim herself.
He feels a connection to the girl and her seeming ability to read emotions from bolts of cloth. Reeling from the loss of his own child, Malone comforts the child and sees that she arrives safely at her spinster aunts’ home in Cleveland.
Years later, Malone is called back from a job in the Bahamas to help his old friend, Eliot Ness, now the Safety Director in Cleveland. It seems they have a monster roaming the streets, randomly choosing victims to behead, chop to pieces, and distribute around a vagrant’s area of the city known as Kingsbury Run. Malone is uniquely suited to the investigation as a member of a group called The Unknowns- men who work under the radar and answer to The President of the United States. He specializes in listening and can fit into any environment- including the areas haunted by The Butcher.
Eliot has a room rented for him in a beautiful old Victorian, the home and seamstress business of the Kos’s, Dani’s family.
She was little more than a child the last time he saw her, but Dani Flanigan has grown into a beautiful young woman in the intervening years. She’s a distraction when he should be focusing on his job. Malone lost his wife and two children, he’s seen the worst of humanity, but there’s something about the sweet innocence of Dani and her inquisitive mind that draws him. He’s afraid. Scared she’ll be hurt when he leaves. Frightened he’ll be lost without her.
It’s horrifying to think monsters like The Butcher use the poor and downtrodden to slake their heinous hunger for depravity. This story gives insight into their behaviors and what makes a psychotic act out on their fantasies. It would be a dark read if not for the budding romance between a man who fears he has nothing to live for and the woman determined to prove him wrong.
The Uknown Beloved is a five+ star read.