The Unknown Beloved by Amy Harmon

This may seem random but it ties so stick with me for a moment. My mother-in-law loved reading, especially historical fiction, and we had a little thing where I’d always pick her up a few new novels for special occasions like her birthday, mother’s day, or Christmas. We did this for years and she always looked forward to opening the latest round of books. When I read From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon a few years ago, I knew my MIL would love it and included a copy in her next round of books. What the Wind Knows and Where the Lost Wander were also included in future rounds. Amy Harmon became one of her favorite authors and I loved that we shared this love for her books. My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly last November and it’s still a little hard to believe that I’ll never get to buy her another stack of books again. When I first saw this book was coming out, she was the first person I thought of. It would have been right up her alley, a fact my husband confirmed when he told me that she enjoyed the story of Eliot Ness and The Untouchables. It was bittersweet picking up this book now, my first Amy Harmon book since my MIL passed, but my memories of our little tradition and thinking how much she would have enjoyed this story were comforting to me – and for that I am grateful. 

I am also grateful for Amy Harmon – her storytelling is a gift. I loved how she was able to weave real people and events into a fictional story, staying true to the history while still giving us a highly satisfying resolution that these characters didn’t exactly get in real life. I think most people have heard of Eliot Ness and his involvement with taking down Al Capone, I personally didn’t know about his time in Cleveland and I had also never heard of Michael Malone. I was tickled when I discovered he was, in fact, a real person and the basis for the character in this book. I thought it was so cool of Amy Harmon, through this book, to craft the ending she thought the real Michael Malone deserved. For all he’d sacrificed over the years in the name of his work, it made my heart happy to think of him finally finding his own happiness. Even if that wasn’t the case for the real Michael Malone, it was still comforting.

Dani Flanagan wasn’t based on an actual person but I loved her character all the same. Her innocence and goodness were the perfect balance for Michael’s hard edges and jaded nature. I loved how their connection formed from their very first meeting when she was just a child. When Michael is sent to Cleveland to assist Eliot with tracking down the “Torso Murderer” he’s unexpectedly reunited with Dani, and she’s all grown up now and may be the only person who can help him crack the case. Dani was such a special character, her compassion and her mission to give names to the unknowns were admirable. I can see why Michael was so drawn to her. I loved the mystery and the true-crime aspects of this story, watching Dani and Michael work together to track down this heinous killer. But at the same time, there was a breathtaking romance unfolding between Dani and Michael, and it was woven in so seamlessly to the overall story. I loved every minute of it and would love it if we got to see Dani and Michael working together to solve even more mysteries in the future! 

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