The Lindbergh Nanny: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Lindbergh kidnapping case has fascinated the American public since its occurrence in 1932, and author Mariah Fredericks uses that fascination to bring us a truly entertaining and provocative take on the case. If you aren’t familiar with the Lindbergh case, be forewarned: this review contains a SPOILER! IF YOU AREN’T FAMILIAR WITH THE CASE, QUIT READING THIS REVIEW AND JUST GO GET THE BOOK. YOU’LL LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE KIDNAPPING IN ITS PAGES.
For those of you who are familiar with the kidnapping, this novel of historical fiction presents the case as it may have been experienced by the Lindbergh nanny, Betty Gow. Betty came from Scotland, following a man she expected to marry. After she is jilted in Detroit, she searches for work and lands the nanny job with the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his young family.
Fredericks does an admirable job of melding the facts of the Lindbergh household with her own fictionalized accounts of the servants and their lives. Even though Betty is employed to look after Charlie, the young son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh, these famous figures are peripheral to Betty’s story. Instead, Betty’s society includes the housekeepers, butlers, cooks, valets, chauffeurs, groundskeepers and handymen of the wealthy and famous family. Each of these servants have interesting backstories and each can be seen as a potential villain in the upcoming crime.
When Charlie goes missing everyone is a suspect. Charlie was taken on her watch, so Betty is forced to endure intense scrutiny. She is questioned relentlessly by the police and her reputation is smeared in the press. She’s accused of negligence, or being the “moll” of a Detroit gang. Even the innocent summer fling she had with a Norwegian sailor becomes a torrid affair in the tabloids.
The kidnapper’s demand a ransom and Lindbergh and the police start the work to get Charlie back. Again, Fredericks seamlessly melds the actual facts of the case with the lives of Betty and the other servants. <SPOILER ALERT> When the baby’s body is found, Betty is devastated. And angry. She loved little Charlie and she is determined to expose the kidnapper. All evidence points to the fact that it must have been perpetrated by one of the household staff or someone near to the family. Was it a butler that drinks too much? Her poverty-stricken Norwegian boyfriend? A gambling chauffeur? An upstairs maid with loose lips and mob ties? A groundskeeper with a grudge?
The Lindbergh Nanny is compelling. I went into the story knowing the facts and yet I was utterly entertained. It’s fast-paced and still character driven. Fredericks ends her book with an appendix describing the life of the actual Betty Gow. If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is one that I recommend. Happy reading!— Luanne Clark
December 2022 Indie Next List
“Mariah Fredericks’s The Lindbergh Nanny is a fresh and profound take on America’s most notorious kidnapping. This engaging historical fiction novel vividly describes the secrets and sadness surrounding the Lindbergh kidnapping.”
— Susan McBeth, Adventures By The Book, San Diego, CA
Mariah Fredericks's The Lindbergh Nanny is powerful, propulsive novel about America’s most notorious kidnapping through the eyes of the woman who found herself at the heart of this deadly crime.
"A masterful blending of fact and fiction that is as compelling as it is entertaining."—Nelson DeMille
When the most famous toddler in America, Charles Lindbergh, Jr., is kidnapped from his family home in New Jersey in 1932, the case makes international headlines. Already celebrated for his flight across the Atlantic, his father, Charles, Sr., is the country’s golden boy, with his wealthy, lovely wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, by his side. But there’s someone else in their household—Betty Gow, a formerly obscure young woman, now known around the world by another name: the Lindbergh Nanny.
A Scottish immigrant deciphering the rules of her new homeland and its East Coast elite, Betty finds Colonel Lindbergh eccentric and often odd, Mrs. Lindbergh kind yet nervous, and Charlie simply a darling. Far from home and bruised from a love affair gone horribly wrong, Betty finds comfort in caring for the child, and warms to the attentions of handsome sailor Henrik, sometimes known as Red. Then, Charlie disappears.
Suddenly a suspect in the eyes of both the media and the public, Betty must find the truth about what really happened that night, in order to clear her own name—and to find justice for the child she loves.
"Gripping and elegant, The Lindbergh Nanny brings readers into the interior of the twentieth century’s most infamous crime."—Nina de Gramont, New York Times bestselling author of The Christie Affair
About the Author
MARIAH FREDERICKS was born, raised, and still lives in New York City. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in history. She is the author of the Jane Prescott mystery series, which has twice been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, as well as several YA novels. She can be reached through her website.
An Agatha Award nominee for "Best Historical Novel"
"Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2022"—CrimeReads
"Best Historical Fiction of Fall 2022"—Book Bub
“8 Fiction Books for the History Buff”—Canadian Living
“The reader feels Betty’s agony, and the suspicion levied upon her for what she did or didn’t do. Fredericks fills in substantial details from real life, but never forgets to put the human cost, and its lasting damage, at the forefront of her narrative.”—The New York Times
“An admirable and involving historical novel. Its early sections bring the reader intimately into Betty’s eventful upstairs-downstairs world, making the latter parts—including the nanny’s participation in the accused kidnapper’s trial—all the more dramatic.”—Wall Street Journal
"Mariah Fredericks has combined research and a novelist’s imagination to produce an unusually sophisticated and moving piece of historical fiction. You’d think this tale would be stripped to its bones by now, but Fredericks has found something new in it, with Gow as its spine."—Lisa Henricksson, Air Mail
"A terrific read from a seriously thoughtful writer."—The Daily Mail (UK)
"A poignant crime novel... Fredericks creates suspense for even those familiar with the case by suggesting the real-life culprit had accomplices, thus rendering everyone a suspect. Betty’s distress and distrust are palpable, heightening anxiety. Historical mystery fans and true crime aficionados will be well pleased."—Publishers Weekly
"Mariah Fredericks is an expert at capturing history's ordinary voices in extraordinary circumstances, and The Lindbergh Nanny is her best yet. An eyewitness view of a still-shocking event that makes for perfect historical fiction." —Crime Reads, "21 New and Upcoming Historical Fiction Titles to Check Out This Summer"
"Carefully researched . . .This is a compelling story about a courageous woman nearly forgotten by history, with a bittersweet mix of sorrow and redemption; for readers who enjoy Jennifer Chiaverini, Marie Benedict, or Melanie Benjamin."—Booklist
“Fredericks is especially adept at historical settings, and this book doesn’t disappoint. The Lindbergh Nanny can cross-over in all kinds of directions, and should appeal to readers of crime fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction and those just needing a solid read.”—First Clue (starred review)
"A bold and creative retelling of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, a masterful blending of fact and fiction that is as compelling as it is entertaining. We know how this tragedy ends, but Mariah Fredericks takes us on an extraordinary journey along a different path to get there. The writing is superb and the characters—real and fictional—come alive on every page." —Nelson DeMille, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Gripping and elegant, The Lindbergh Nanny brings readers into the interior of the twentieth century’s most infamous crime. Mariah Fredericks has meticulously crafted a story about the darkest pieces of celebrity, the unlikely people who get caught in its wake, and—most importantly—the heartbreaking loss of an innocent child."—Nina de Gramont, New York Times bestselling author of The Christie Affair
"The Lindbergh Nanny is without doubt one of the most spellbinding and compulsively readable novels I’ve read in a long time, a dazzling take on a most infamous and horrific kidnapping. You will not be able to put this book down. Highly, highly recommended!" —Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling co-author with Lincoln Child of the Agent Pendergast series
"A compelling, fast-paced, and always humane keyhole view of the kidnapping, murder, and criminal investigation of golden-boy aviator Charles Lindbergh’s son—from the below-stairs nanny, Betty Gow—who must find the real killer to avoid being charged herself. A fresh, penetrating, and profound take on “the crime of the century.”"—Susan Elia MacNeal, author of the New York Times bestselling Maggie Hope series and Mother Daughter Traitor Spy
"Suspenseful and compelling, The Lindbergh Nanny is one of the best historical novels I have read in recent years. In Fredericks' deft hands, Betty Gow is vulnerable, observant, and utterly relatable. The pacing is perfect, the emotional stakes high, and the secondary characters, with all their flaws, are sensitively portrayed. Fans of Sarah Blake, Jennifer Egan, and Kate Morton will find much to love here. Not to be missed by anyone who loves well-wrought historical fiction with a humane spirit." —Karen Odden, USA Today bestselling author of Down a Dark River
"This startling, empathetic, intimate novel makes for gripping reading. Mariah Fredericks forces you to think anew about an infamous crime, and the culpability of all the characters caught up in it." —Clare McHugh, author of A Most English Princess