The Detective's Assistant

The Detective's Assistant

Publishing on the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination comes Kate's historical fiction for middle-grade, The Detective's Assistant (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). Set in Chicago just before the Civil War, it is based on a real American heroine: the nation's first female detective, Kate Warne. Along with her niece, Nell, they set off on hair-raising adventures solving crimes and thwarting danger.

"In these witty and well-researched pages, Kate Hannigan has found just the right blend of fact and fiction, history and mystery."
 Richard Peck, Newbery-winning author of A Year Down Yonder

"Who doesn’t need Nell Warne in their life? Meet a cipher-solver, a master of disguise, and someone who’ll make sure you get the best 'day old' meat from the butcher. Ah Nell Warne — ever optimistic in the face of difficulty — I’m delighted to make your acquaintance!" 

— Newbery Honor winner Amy Timberlake, One Came Home

"A delightful, warm-hearted adventure. Kate Hannigan brings an important chapter of history to life for young readers."
— Daniel Stashower, author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War


Winner of the 2016 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction!

Weaving in history along with ciphers and mysteries both large and small, The Detective's Assistant looks at the events leading up to Lincoln's inauguration in 1861 as the nation began to tear at the seams. Nell Warne is 11 years old (or thereabouts) when she finds herself orphaned and on the doorstep of her long-lost relation. With no one else to claim her, Nell has few prospects and faces a grim future in the dreaded Home for the Friendless.

When her aunt turns out to be working as a detective, Nell's life gets a good bit more exciting.

Nell dons disguises and climbs aboard trains bound for adventure and even danger as she joins Kate Warne and the other Pinkerton detectives on their investigations. She even takes part in one of the most important cases of the detectives' lives: protecting Lincoln as he makes the final leg of his journey into Washington, D.C.

One of Allan Pinkerton's most respected detectives, Kate Warne was instrumental in thwarting what has come to be known as the Baltimore Plot to assassinate Lincoln en route to his inauguration in early 1861. She took part in many exciting cases, many of which are recorded in Allan Pinkerton's stories The Expressman and the Detective, The Somnambulist and the Detective: The Murderer and the Fortune Teller, and The Spy of the Rebellion. These stories, along with Pinkerton papers gathered from the Library of Congress and non-fiction material about the Baltimore Plot, formed the basis of this work of fiction.

For gripping non-fiction accounts, read Daniel Stashower's The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War and Michael J. Kline's The Baltimore Plot: The First Conspiracy to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Kate Warne is buried in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery.