"Remarkable . . . fans of women’s history and
adventure stories will cheer this engrossing account."
                                    —Publisher's Weekly


author of Love and Ruin and The Paris Wife

From the author of the bestselling MRS. SHERLOCK HOLMES

comes an unforgettable new adventure.


Olive MacLeod was a thirty-year-old, redheaded Scottish socialite who was the life of every party she went to.

But in 1910, her whole world changed when her fiancé, a handsome naturalist she had just met, went missing in Africa.


So she went to find him.

"Olive the Lionheart has it all . . . Ricca mines emotions

and real fears in this incredible true story."

                                                                   –Brad Meltzer

                                     author of The Lincoln Conspiracy


Olive's journey to Africa covered nearly 3,700 miles in nine months before its unexpected end. In jungles, swamps, cities, and deserts, Olive and her two companions, the Talbots, come face-to-face with cobras and crocodiles, wise native chiefs, a murderous leopard cult, and two adorable lion cubs that she adopts as her own. Making her way in a pair of ill-fitting boots, Olive awakens to the many forces around her, from devious colonial spies to a shadowy force in the East who may hold the key to her intended husband's disappearance.


As these secrets begin to unravel, Olive is forced to confront the darkest, most shocking secret of all: why she really came to Africa in the first place.

Drawing on her own travel accounts,
her fiancé's lost diary, unsealed government documents, and her own letters and photographs, Olive the Lionheart is a love story that defies all boundaries, set against the backdrop of a beautiful, unconquerable Africa.

Follow along on Olive's incredible journey with this map designed by award-winning artist Henry Yene See.

"Powerful, nearly hallucinatory . . .

a swift-moving re-creation of an intrepid,

rare spirit of her age."

                                                         -Kirkus Reviews

Photos by Olive MacLeod




Edgar Award finalist

Best Fact Crime

“An express train of a story."

-Starred review, Kirkus Reviews


"Heroic...her  inspiring story demands a hearing.”

New York Times


“Rambunctiously excellent…his storytelling skills give Humiston’s incredible life the book it deserves.”

The Christian Science Monitor



Winner, Ohioana Book Award for Nonfiction


“A wonderful book, as exciting as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.”

―Starred review, Booklist


“As definitive a work as may be possible.”

The Washington Post


“Compulsively readable.” ―Publishers Weekly



Winner, St. Lawrence

Book Award

"An entertaining, bold, and wholly original collection of poems" - The Rumpus

"A voice and style I’m enthralled to see.”

-Luke Kennard, The Transition

"A bustling, boisterous, mischievous book, the kind of book you should keep on you always, everywhere.”

-Heather Phillipson


I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland. I think I knew I wanted to be a writer when my Mom took me to something called a "Young Authors Conference" to meet Ezra Jack Keats. She was a teacher and kept telling me what a big deal it was. I was okay just watching him read from afar, but my Mom wasn't having it. She marched me right over. He smiled, signed a book, and talked to me. That was pretty cool. Here was the guy who wrote that book. So that was the day. Or one of them. Maybe it was all the comics I read. Or Porter Public Library. Or The Great Brain. Or every book. Or the ones that weren't there. Eventually I stopped making excuses.

I've written Sherlock Holmes (St. Martin’s, 2017), Super Boys (St. Martin’s, 2013), and American Mastodon (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). I made a movie, Last Son, that won a 2010 Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival. I've also written for The Beat, Belt, Book Riot, Narratively, History Extra, and the official Star Wars website. I've been in documentaries on the History Channel, AMC, and have been a guest on Criminal, All Things Considered, BBC radio, and Innovation Hub, among others. I live in Shaker Heights (still Cleveland) with Caroline and our three boys, in a 100-year-old house.

I am not a journalist or a historian really or maybe even a biographer. I am an English major and writer who wants to tell unconventional stories that haven't been told before -- usually about underdogs or people who aren't very perfect -- in sometimes unconventional ways that explore that moment between someone's actual life and the telling of it. Those are the stories I like, where the real meets the imaginary. Olive the Lionheart is the newest book of that type that I have been very privileged to write. Olive defies any easy description. She is, like this book, not what she seems. Or more importantly, not what others make her out to be. She is, I think, the most amazing person I've ever written about. Not that it's a contest or anything.

Thanks for reading (and reading). I really appreciate it.

Stay safe,


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For rights inquiries, please contact agent Scott Mendel:

© 2020 by Brad Ricca