The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill takes Piper Sail on a journey to find her missing best friend in 1920s Chicago. Read an excerpt now!
About ‘The Lost Girl of Astor Street’
When her best friend vanishes without so much as a good-bye, 18-year-old Piper Sail takes on the role of amateur sleuth in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. Given that Piper’s tendency has always been to butt heads with high-society’s expectations of her, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t give a second thought to searching for answers to Lydia’s abduction from their privileged neighborhood.
As Piper discovers that those answers might stem from the corruption strangling 1924 Chicago—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood — she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.
Perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Anna Godbersen, Stephanie Morrill’s atmospheric jazz-age mystery will take readers from the glitzy homes of the elite to the dark underbelly of 1920s Chicago.
Excerpt from ‘The Lost Girl of Astor Street’ by Stephanie Morrill
Excerpt from Chapter Four
Jeremiah’s hands grasp my shoulders, hold me steady, and that’s when I realize I swayed.
“I’m sorry we’re the bearers of troubling news, Miss Sail.” Detective Cassano glances to his older counterpart before training his eyes back on me. “I’m sure it’s alarming to learn about your friend in this manner. We’re hoping you can help us locate her.”
“Of course.” My words are so high and breathy, I barely recognize them as my own. “I’ll do whatever I can.”
Detective O’Malley fits his homburg back on his round head. “Cassano, I’ll head in to have a word with the headmistress.” He nods to me. “My apologies, Miss Sail.” While his words are brusque, his gaze is sincere.
“Thank you, detective.”
They sound like lines from a school play rather than my real life. Reported missing. Thank you, detective.
At the most, Lydia was supposed to be going on a date. Just a date.
From his inside pocket, the detective pulls a small notepad and a stub of a pencil. “I know it’s hard, Miss Sail, but I need to ask you a few questions about Lydia. When was the last time you saw her?”
Around us, Presley’s girls clatter down the stone steps, passing us curious looks as they bend their bobbed heads together and whisper. I almost sway on my feet again, but I stop myself in time.
“Yesterday, around five o’clock. She was only over for about fifteen minutes, and then she left.”
“What was Lydia like during that time? Anything unusual about her behavior?”
In fact, in was hard to remember anything that hadn’t been unusual. From Lydia’s anger, to her talk about her health, to her determination to finally tell Matthew how she felt. If he asked me to marry him today, I’d have no hesitation in saying yes. The words reverberate in my ears.
Surely not. Even as brave and reckless as she seemed yesterday afternoon, surely she wouldn’t have gone so far as to actually run away with Matthew.
Or would she?
Jeremiah’s hand presses into my waist. “Piper, I think you should sit down.”
I had swayed again.
“Miss Sail, while I understand you being alarmed over your friend, I assure you that this sort of thing is not unusual.” Detective Cassano gazes at me from under the brim of his hat. Despite the firm line of his jaw and his sharp eyes, there’s a softness about his manner. “The majority of the time, we find the young lady with a friend or boyfriend. So while we’re taking this seriously, of course, you should know that the results usually are not as distressing as they initially seem.”
“Thank you, that’s comforting.” I take a swallow of dry air. “You asked about Lydia’s behavior. She came over because she’d been fighting with her parents. When she arrived at my house, she was upset.”
“What had they been fighting about?”
“Dr. and Mrs. LeVine wanted Lydia to go to Minnesota for a few months, and she didn’t want to go. She . . .” I press my eyes closed, the betrayal bitter on the top of my tongue. Lydia will understand, right? He’s a detective.
I can’t lie. “She believed herself in love with someone, and she didn’t want to be gone so long.”
Detective Cassano’s eyebrows rise. “Who was it?”
“The family’s chauffeur. Matthew. I’m sorry, I don’t know his last name.”
“What’s going on here?” Walter’s voice booms into the conversation, and I turn to find him mounting Presley’s limestone steps two at a time to reach us. I’ve never thought of Walter being frightening, but with his broad shoulders and the scowl on his face, I’m not surprise the girls in his path skitter out of the way.
“What are you doing here?”
“Picking you up.” Walter’s tone says this ought to be obvious to me. He puts a protective arm around me bumping Jeremiah.
Jeremiah yanks his hand away and nearly knocks into his sister as she joins us.
“This is Detective Cassano,” I say to Walter. “Apparently Lydia—”
Walter’s hold on me tightens as he turns to the detective. “Is it really necessary to question her?”
Walter knows? But of course; the news is probably all over the neighborhood.
Detective Cassano spares a glance for Walter. “Seeing as she’s Miss LeVine’s best friend, I assume Miss Sail wouldn’t mind providing information.”
“And you couldn’t do it in the privacy of her own home?” Walter’s words come through clenched teeth.
Walter is making such a scene that most Presley’s girls have given up covertly observing and now openly stare. That stupid Mae Husboldt giggles behind her hand.
I tug at Walter’s sleeve. “Calm down. I’m happy to answer his questions.”
Detective Cassano angles his body away from Walter. “Miss Sail, back to what you were saying about Matthew. Were the two of them romantically involved?”
I can feel Walter gaping at me. “Not exactly. Lydia liked him, but I think I was the only one who knew. Except last night . . .” My hands tremble and I clasp them together. “When she left my house, she said she was going to tell Matthew how she felt. I think she was hoping for a date. She said she would call me to tell me how it went, but she never did.”
The detective glances at me, his eyes perceptive like a bird of prey, but also somehow compassionate. “Had you noticed, or had she mentioned, anyone suspicious hanging around?”
“What about strange behavior from people she knew? Her mother? Father? Sisters?”
“No. Everyone had been very normal.”
He seems to hesitate a moment. “Even Matthew?”
“Matthew seemed fine. He was quiet, but Matthew is always quiet.”
Without looking up from the notes he’s taking, he asks, “Even with Lydia?”
I attempt a calming breath, but the air shakes as it comes in and out. “Whenever I was around them, yes.”
About the author
Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids.