Book Review: Chicago May

Is it a woman? Yes, it is! A woman with a crown.

Harry Duffin ~ Chicago May


Sixteen-year-old peasant girl, May Sharpe, steals from her abusive father, and flees Ireland, to chase her dream of a new life. Arriving penniless and friendless in 1919’s America, May is forced to choose between honest poverty, or crime. Beautiful May is charmed by successful con-man, ‘Society’ Eddie. With her new lover’s guidance, teenage May becomes the city’s ‘Queen of Crooks’.

But Joe, a stubborn local cop, has fallen for feisty May, and is determined to save her from herself, and spending a lifetime in prison. In the midst of her glitzy life, he confronts May to make a decision; a decision which would threaten, not only her new-found fame and fortune, but, her young life… 


Chicago May was the nickname of Mary Anne Duignan, an Irish-born criminal who became notorious in several countries. I love reading about real-life female criminals and murderers, especially in the ‘roaring 20s’ so was intrigued to read a work of fiction based on her life.

Duffin has done a good job with the story. It’s fast-paced and interesting, with a love triangle that adds an extra dimension. It asks us to consider the path we might choose if we were faced with honest poverty, or ill-gotten wealth and how we deal with the consequences of our actions.

While May has fled from her home and enters a life of crime, her courage and spirit really shine through. It’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship and there are many character traits that are admirable. However, May is a bit too naïve for my liking; I would have liked a bit more grit – after all criminals aren’t really very nice! She may have been ‘unduly influenced’, but she was no innocent victim and I’d have expected her to be a bit more feisty.

That said, Chicago May is a well-written, plot-driven story that leaves you wanting to know more.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I was provided with a copy of the book by Zooloos Book Tours. Opinions my own.

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