Emma Koehler lived a remarkable life, just in the things that *are* publicly known. So it is no wonder that author Camille Di Maio, who tends to specialize in historical fiction anyway and who happens to live in San Antonio – where Koehler did some of her most remarkable work in the era of Prohibition and the Great Depression – would find Koehler’s story impossible to resist finding some way to tell. The problem is that while there is a great deal known about a “Trial of the Century” tale of her husband’s murder by at least one of his mistresses (there were two, both also named Emma) and the brewery – out of business since the turn of the Millenium – still retains some records of her work there, not much else is really documented about her life.
So Di Maio had her work cut out for her spinning a tale that told Koehler’s tale and even used it as a driving force in the narrative… without actually being the primary focus of the book. And she managed to do this in a truly remarkable fashion, spinning Koehler much as one imagines she likely was – a very cunning, very savvy old (by the time of the main storyline in the book, near her actual death in 1943) lady who knows her days are near an end. The other elements of the book are well done and well within bounds of at least what this Millenial has known of the time period from much reading and many discussions with older friends and relatives over the years, and indeed Di Maio actually masks some current commentary within the bounds of what was appropriate back then. It is actually quite amusing when Di Maio manages to shoot raging infernos of arrows straight at at least some types of reviewers, but I’ll leave it to the reader to pick up on exactly where that happens. As Pepper Potts says near the beginning of the first Avengers movie: “Not gonna be that subtle”. 😉
Overall truly an excellent work, one you need to read for yourself to see just how remarkable Koehler was as a person and Di Maio is as a storyteller. Very much recommended.