O'Brien's Desk

O’Brien’s Desk, a book best-selling mystery writer, Anne Perry, calls “an intriguing story that gives us insight into the moral dilemmas of 20th century America,” is the first in my historical mystery series. Published in 2004 by Sunstone Press, the novel is shaped by the explosively paradoxical forces of the 1920s: corruption, sexual promiscuity and bigotry on the one hand, the highest ideals of the Progressive reformers on the other. The narrative centers on Judge O’Brien O’Donnell, a celebrated historical figure (and my husband’s grandfather) caught between these two forces.


"An intriguing and thoroughly researched story that gives us insight into the moral dilemmas of 20th Century America. A well-told story that does not leave us with easy answers."

–Anne Perry, award-winning, bestselling author of the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt and William Monk mysteries

"Sarah Kaufman is an engaging protagonist, thrust into an authentic, sociologically driven mystery involving issues which still resonate today. The author handles the societal attitudes of the period with a sure and sympathetic hand, and with an eye for their parallels in the 21st century."

–Miriam Grace Monfredo, author of Seneca Falls historical mysteries

"O'Brien's Desk is a terrific read because of its riveting story and because so much of the author's identity is invested in the events it so vividly portrays."

–Richard Lederer, author of A Man of My Words, host of NPR's "A Way With Words"

"This is an engaging example of that popular cross-genre, the history/mystery...The daily details, smoothly integrated into narrative, give her tale a pleasing, authentic ring...Sarah's crusade to save her beloved bosses' sanity (and his job) in the middle of an election year draws her down some enjoyably puzzling paths."

–Historical Novel Society Reviews

"When one of Ohio's most well-known judges fathers his first and only child, a blackmailer precipitates a chain of events resulting in the judge's near-fatal breakdown. The judge's most trusted friend and colleague, Sarah Kaufman, must unravel the clues behind the machinations. Confronted at every turn by polarized forces ranging from progressive reform vs. political corruption to racial tolerance set against sanctioned bigotry, she learns that the secret of the judge's success lay in balancing and compromising between these forces...a role that eventually made him a target, and now she is next. A thrilling, suspense-filled, and vibrantly told novel."

–Midwest Book Review

"Author Ona Russell has woven an intricate mystery around real people and events in Toledo during the first part of the 20th century. She has blended historical fact with fiction to create an intriguing story of the blackmailing of a prominent judge."

–Toledo Blade