cover image The Johnstown Girls

The Johnstown Girls

Kathleen George. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $24.95 (348p) ISBN 978-0-8229-4431-7

Edgar-finalist George (The Odds and six other Richard Christie mysteries) successfully moves to period fiction with this evocative, historically themed whodunit, set in 1989, as the great Johnstown, Pa., flood approaches its centennial. Anticipating a spate of renewed attention, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ben Bragdon visits Johnstown to interview 103-year-old Ellen Emerson, the flood’s last known survivor. Though Ellen’s family was lost in the flood, she has always believed that her twin sister, Mary, somehow survived. George interweaves Ellen’s story with that of Anna Hoffman, who is living in a nursing home in nearby Pittsburgh, along with Ben’s research into the flood and his ambitious young colleague Nina Collins’s pursuit of the missing twin. Ben is also trying to make a clean break from his estranged wife, Amanda, who continues to have feelings for him even as he begins a new relationship with Nina. George offers complex and rewarding storytelling that pays tribute to not only the magnitude of the disastrous flood but also the resilience of Johnstown and its citizens. (Apr.)