Poster Girl: A Jane Benjamin Novel
Poster Girl is the third novel of the Jane Benjamin series which follows the scrappy young heroine of the same name as she covers a career-making story deep in the throes of World War 2. Familiarization with the prior novels isn’t necessary to enjoy this one, but if you’re anything like me, starting with this story as I did will only leave you itching to get the first two on your e-reader asap. After the United States officially enters the fray, public support and nationwide collaboration are essential to boosting morale and sustaining the War effort on the home front. With most of the country’s men being shipped overseas, it’s up to the women left behind to pick up the slack and become the workforce desperately needed to ensure victory for the stars and stripes. When gossip columnist and member of the Office of War Information unit Jane Benjamin is sent to cover a co-ed shipyard contest whose aim is to beat the world speed record for the construction of a liberty ship, she knows just the way to do it. But before she can institute her idea of promoting a poster girl contest for a Wendy-the-Welder figurehead to encourage more women to bolster the industrial workforce, a woman performing welding work in the shipyard is found dead, seemingly of her own carelessness with the tools of the trade. Jane senses there’s more at play than feminine carelessness, as her male cohorts are quick to surmise, and it’s up to her to uncover the truth before more women are found dead, and the burgeoning war effort is sunk. Blanton-Stroud has created a wildly entertaining whodunnit that even hard-core mystery fans can enjoy while simultaneously moving the narrative forward with a well-rounded cast of female characters that center the plot around women’s experiences in a way I’ve rarely seen in historical mysteries. The fact that she doesn’t shy away from some of the harder-to-swallow subjects like the ever-present specter of misogyny, the calculated injustice of racism, and the near absence of bodily autonomy for women of the time period absolutely delighted me and added rich dimensions to the storyline and characters that I could see making for some top-notch book club discussions. Fans of Tracy Chevalier and Kate Atkinson will love being immersed in the detail-driven historical atmosphere, while hard-boiled mystery fans will thoroughly enjoy being led by our whip-smart and street-savvy heroine through the maze of clues leading to a shocking final plot twist.
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