Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, mystery, and sense of time and place
Cons: All cons lost to time
The Bottom Line:
Frank, Sarah investigate
A compelling read
The Suicide That Wasn’t
There are really only so many set ups to a murder mystery, and a common one is a murder made to look like a suicide. That’s what starts Murder on Gramercy Square, the third Gaslight Mystery from Victoria Thompson. But, as with other books I’ve read with this set up, the mystery branches off into some unexpected directions from the familiar beginning.
New York Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy isn’t happy about being assigned to a suicide case. He’s even less happy when he arrives to learn the victim’s wife has gone into labor. Against his better judgment, he calls on midwife Sarah Brandt to come and attend to the wife while he goes to view the scene.
The victim is Dr. Edmund Blackwell, a magnetic healer who has cured many people who were supposed to be beyond medical help. In fact, one of his first clients was his now wife, Letitia. Frank has only looked at the scene for a couple of minutes when he realizes that it was a murder. He must reluctantly involve Sarah again since she is getting information as a result of being Letitia’s midwife. Why would anyone want to kill a doctor who seems to be doing so many people so much good?
Some historical novels set their action around famous historical events. That isn’t the case here, but the historical setting infuses every page. We get a real sense of how people lived in New York in the 1890’s, and how various people were expected to relate to each other. It is very interesting to view how our society has changed for the better, and the worse. This book really does transport you to another time and place.
Of course, the main reason I picked up this book was for the mystery, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I thought I had it all figured out early on, but I turned out to have missed a big piece of the puzzle. And even if I’d been correct, I still would have enjoyed every page since there were threads I wanted to see resolved.
The book spends almost equal time between Frank and Sarah, allowing us to get the clues with these two main characters. It also always us to really get to know them. Their relationship is a lot of fun and adds some light touches to the book. The other returning characters are very minor, but they are also fun. That gives the cast of suspects plenty of time to be developed, and we get some great depth to them, which makes some of the events of the story pack a real punch.
Quite obviously, I am woefully behind on this series, and I wished I’d started it much sooner. Murder on Gramercy Park makes it easy to see why the Gaslight series has been so popular for so long. I’m looking forward to catching up on the rest of this series soon.