About the Book
Who was the mysterious 355?
Culper Ring members such as Robert Townsend and Hercules Mulligan are well known for the part they played in the Revolutionary War, but who was the mysterious 355 that could “outwit them all?” Inspired by many of the same characters featured in AMC’s Turn and the Broadway musical Hamilton, 355: The Women of Washington’s Spy Ring chronicles the lives of three remarkable women who use daring, skill, and, yes, a bit of flirtation, to help liberate America.
Told from the viewpoints of these three women, including the one operating under the code name 355, 355: The Women of Washington’s Spy Ring is an absorbing tale of family, duty, love, and betrayal.
Format: ebook (332 pages) Publisher: Thompson Belle Press
Publication date: 12th December 2017 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find 355: The Women of Washington’s Spy Ring (Women Spies Book 1) on Goodreads
Firstly, I’d recommend not reading the book description on Goodreads as, to my mind, it gives away too much of the story. (The blurb above is my edited version.) Secondly, I feel this book will be most appreciated by those with some knowledge of the American Revolutionary War and the key characters involved. Unfortunately, as a Brit, I don’t fall into that category so, as well as having never heard of the Culper Ring, I found myself confused at times by who was on what side, especially as various terms were used for the supporters of each faction – Whigs, Tories, Loyalists, rebels – and, of course, people supporting one side might be masquerading as supporting the other or switch sides!
The book opens with a prologue set in 1939 that recreates amateur historian, Morton Pennypacker, receiving important information in his search for the identity of all the members of the Culper spy ring. I must admit I thought this was an unnecessary bit of whimsy on the part of the author until I read the Bibliography and the Author’s Note at the end of the book.
After that the book switches frequently between the points of view of three real life women: Margaret (Meg) Moncrieffe, the daughter of a British naval captain; Elizabeth Burgin, the wife of a man captured and imprisoned by the British; and Sarah (Sally) Townsend, the eldest daughter of a Quaker family, supporters of the drive for Independence.
Covering the years from 1776, the book recounts how the three women become involved in espionage, each for different reasons. For Meg, it’s in an attempt to end the war to protect the lives of her father and the man she has fallen in love with, fighting on the opposite side. For Elizabeth, it’s the desire to help men in the same position as her husband. For Sally, it’s all about the cause of independence.
I liked the way the book showed how women played a role in the outcome of the conflict in the only ways open to them: using a little flirtation to gather information, observing troop movements, acting as couriers for secret messages. To get a flavour of this, you can read an extract from the book here. Of the three, I found Elizabeth’s story the most interesting and engaging because of the more active nature of her involvement and the ingenuity she showed.
Although the women may not have been on the front line it was a dangerous game with serious consequences for those found guilty of spying. I liked that the epilogue provides information about what happened to the three women after the book ends.
And the identity of 355? The author makes her choice (and provides her reasons for it in her Author’s Note) but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!
Thanks to the author for my review copy and her patience in waiting for it to reach the top of my review pile.
In three words: Engaging, dramatic, detailed
Try something similar: The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard
About the Author
Like her character Addy in Thrown for a Curve, Kit has a practically useless degree in marine biology. A teacher by profession and at heart, Kit loves to impart little-known facts and dares you to walk away from one of her books without learning at least one new thing. She has written a few “beach reads” with intelligent and strong female leads. One of them, What It Is, was a previous Kindle Scout winner.
Her newest book, 355: The Women of Washington’s Spy Ring, keeps the strong heroines that are essential to Kit’s books, but takes them back 240 years, to the genesis of America and the women who helped spawn it.