The Physicists’ Daughter is a World War II spy thriller. With the majority of men fighting overseas, there are more than a few Rosie the Riveters. Justine Byrne is just one of the many women working at a factory producing mysterious widgets made of carbon. No one knows what they are for except they are important to the war effort.
Because she is so good at welding, she’s been called upon to fix equipment that keeps breaking down. She suspects sabotage. In fact, she is certain of it, but who could be the saboteur. She probably hopes it could be the handsy and disgusting floor supervisor, but there are other suspects, too, including a couple of men who seem to be seeking her out, romancing her.
Meanwhile, her home life is filled with sorrow. Her parents died in a recent car accident, one reason she is working instead of attending university. Her godmother seems sunk into paranoia and poverty is knocking at the door. Both of her parents were physicists even though her mother gave up her work to raise her, that apostrophe placement in the title is important and deliberate.
I liked The Physicists’ Daughter even though I thought it was unlikely that she would be as impoverished as she seemed to be. The American Association of Univesity Professors began in 1915. It seems unlikely her father would have had no life insurance and there must have been some equity in a house they lived in her entire life. It seemed strange that she would fall so hard in social and economic class. But then, if she didn’t, there would not have been a welder at hand who understood physics and that was important to finding the spy/saboteur. I also think the story would have been stronger without the chapters from the villain’s point of view. But then, that is a personal dislike of mine in nearly every mystery. I don’t want to read their point of view ever, so I confess my bias. Otherwise, the mystery was fair, the characters complex and interesting, and the writing was descriptive and full of the kind of detail that creates a sense of place. We were in that factory and would recognize it if we ever come across it again.
The Physicists’ Daughter will be released June 7th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.