Maddie is just a kid, or so her father thinks. What can a motherless fifteen year old girl during the American Civil War do when her father becomes a soldier and leaves her with her aunt in Washington City, where North and South meet and neighbors are enemies? Maddie finds plenty to do after her careful observations reveal spies in her aunt’s boardinghouse and around the corner – she wants to become a spy herself and use her skills for the good of President Lincoln and those fighting for the freedom of slaves, including her aunt’s house servant, Nellie and her son Isaac, who helps runaway slaves at the risk of his own life.
When Maddie was six, she imagined that she heard her dead sister calling to her as she sat up in a tree, but when she reached out to her she fell and hit her head. Afterwards, her senses were heightened and she was able to see, hear, and remember more than most people; the neighbors in her New Hampshire village, where her parents once sheltered a runaway slave, thought she was strange and sick, but she now understands that she has a gift that can be useful as a spy. When she passes difficult and painful tests, the leader of the spies, Mr. Pinkerton, puts her to work, where her abilities, emotions, and strengths are pressed to the limit.
This story is written as if Maddie herself had kept a journal during that time, so the adventures are from Maddie’s point of view, and is an exciting, fast-paced telling of what was a real experience for children and teens who acted as spies for both the Union and Confederacy during the war. Children at that time grew up very quickly and often had adult responsibilities; it is both exciting and interesting to see how very different their lives were from ours today.