Under the Paper Moon

Evelyn Bishop and Nick Gallagher Book 1

Kensington Pub

April 23rd, 2024

Under The Paper Moon by Shaina Steinberg is a fun read.  Between the scenes of WWII and the murder of someone in 1948 this blends a mystery and thriller. There is love, duty, loyalty, and forgiveness.

The heroine, Evelyn Bishop, has joined the OSS as a spy.  Besides wanting to help the allies she is trying to rescue her brother, held in a German POW camp. Her supervisor is Nick Gallagher.  They become intimate and grow close during the war until he betrays her. 

Six years later, Evelyn is working as a private investigator. After trailing a suspected cheating husband, the suspect is murdered. Evelyn finds out that Nick is also a PI, who was working with the murdered victim. Teaming up for a final mission, Evelyn and Nick begin to uncover the true nature of her case, realizing that the war has followed them home.

The banter in the story adds humor to the story. There is a lot of action with some romance that includes a love triangle.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the series?

Shaina Steinberg: This is the first in a three-book deal, but I am hoping that I can continue writing more in the series. I love old movies and I started to watch movies from the 1940s.  These had strong women like Katherine Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman. This is partly why I set it during this period.  Plus, there is a correlation with my grandmother who was a strong and vibrant woman.  She got married and did everything society expected of her. She had regrets because she really wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. She did not have many options in her life.  My heroine, Evelyn, explores what my grandmother could have been. 

EC: How did you get the idea for this story?

SS: I have been fascinated by WWII and my father read bedtime stories written by Elie Wiesel. He always said, ‘it can happen here so we must be vigilant.’  I see this is as a story that delved into the war, but not just that aspect.  It shows what war can do to someone and the sacrifices made, especially what a parent would do to keep their child safe. 

EC: Do you think there is a corollary between being a spy and a private investigator?

SS: Absolutely. Evelyn as a spy was extremely competent.  She was taught to be undetected and how to notice small clues that might lead to something bigger.

EC:  How would you describe Evelyn?

SS:  She is very talented, good with a gun and able to speak five languages. She is a feminist and loves the adrenaline rush. She could be selfish, petty, sarcastic, stubborn but is also loyal, fearless, funny, and brave. She is from a privileged background. But after the war, her eyes are open, which gives her empathy.

EC:  As with many of those in the military who have retired, they miss it.  Please explain how you explored this in the story with Evelyn.

SS: There were two quotes in the book that refer to this.  The first, “There is no place for me. Not here. Not there. Not anywhere.” The second, “Those first week’s home Evelyn felt as if she was under water. Sometimes it felt like sitting on the ocean floor with the weight of the water pressing down on her.” The second quote is like someone grieving and that grief encompasses everything in someone’s life. While later, after the grief is not so fresh, the person can be functional. The weight of the ocean water is the numbness. The first quote refers to how after the war she feels useless. Evelyn does not want to be a stay-at-home wife because she actively saved lives during the war and had a sense of purpose. 

EC:  How would you describe the hero, Nick?

SS:  He was Evelyn’s commander during the war. During the war he felt fulfillment, a sense of purpose, confident, fearless, and self-assured. Now, after the war he feels hopeless with a sense of failure.  He feels rage and anger. The anger is an undercurrent as to when he was abandoned by his family when he was so young, feeling his life was unjust and unfair.  He uses that anger to motivate him. 

EC: What about the relationship between Evelyn and Nick?

SS:  Evelyn gave him stability, hope, and happiness.  During the war they were bonded by danger.  They are in love even though he betrayed her. From Evelyn he saw that she is kind, good, and has a belief in the goodness in people. Nick sees the world from her point of view, through her eyes. Nick gets a sense of purpose from Evelyn. I think she helps him channel all his anger into ways he can help others. After the war when he loses her, he loses his sense of purpose.  I also think the war gave her a sense of purpose. She felt like she was doing something important that could save lives. I think a big part of Nick’s appeal is that he was her partner in that purpose, and he never thought of her as anything less than strong and capable. 

EC:  Is there a love triangle between Evelyn, Nick, and her current fiancé? 

SS:  Yes.  There is a scene in the book where Evelyn describes James, her current fiancé, as “romantic, sweet, kind, and chivalrous.”  Nick sees James as “desperate, needy, and old-fashioned.” If there was never WWII, she probably would have married James when she was twenty-two. Before she went to war that would have been enough because she did not know anything different.  To her James is safe and represents her being home and her innocence as well as her living breathing connection to her brother.  But what he represents is not enough for her anymore. Evelyn does not see a compability between her world before the war and one after the war. Her appeal for Nick is beyond more than their chemistry, but he was also there when she grew into the person she is now. But because of his betrayal she questions everything she saw and knew about him as well as how she sees herself.

EC:  What is the relevance of the song, “Paper Moon?”

SS: Everything she felt about Nick was turned around once she thought he betrayed her. The song represents the way Evelyn sees their love. She thought their love was real and after he betrayed her, she now feels it was hollow. On a personal level it was one of my grandmother’s favorite songs, so it reminds me of her. 

EC:  Next book?

SS:  It will be published in May of next year, with a working title An Unquiet Peace. One of my regrets was that I did not explore Evelyn’s female friendships in this book, but it is part of the second book. There are still conflicts between Nick and Evelyn. It will take place in October 1948 around the Berlin Airlift. Nick also has a case of a woman who wants to leave her marriage.




Recommend to friends
  • gplus
  • pinterest

About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.