Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and setting with interesting plot
Cons: Nothing worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Murder in ally
Starts this great trip back in time
That brings past to life
Murder of a Charity Girl
I didn’t plan it this way, but in April I’ve read three historical mysteries. I’m not complaining because I enjoy getting some history with my mystery. That was the case with Murder on St. Mark’s Place. It plunges us into a sad side of society in 1896 New York City.
Midwife Sarah Brandt is called to the tenement apartment of a client only to find that the woman isn’t in labor. Instead, she is crying because her sister, Gerda, has been murdered, bludgeoned to death in a nearby ally. While the shock does send her into labor shortly after Sarah arrives, Sarah feels compelled to help her more after the baby is born.
Knowing that the family is too poor to bribe the police into solving the murder, Sarah calls on her friend, New York Police Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. However, Sarah soon realizes just how hard finding the killer is going to be. Gerda would go out every night to meet men at dances, often trading “favors” for nice things. The number of men that could have motive to kill Gerda seems overwhelming. But then Frank and Sarah make a connection to several other women who have died in similar ways in the last few months. With the stakes raised, can they find the killer before he strikes again?
Like the first book, this one flirts with the line between cozy and traditional mystery since it is a tad darker in tone that the usual cozy. However, it still doesn’t get too graphic. The details we do get are enough to be heart breaking. I wasn’t aware of these so called “charity girls” before reading this book – essentially prostitutes who took goods instead of money for their services to supplement their wages, thereby trying to keep everyone’s consciences clear. It’s sad, and this book makes you feel just how trapped these women felt.
The mystery itself is strong, with a steady pace. I did figure out a few things before the characters did, but I was surprised by twists up to the end of the book. Sarah finds herself in some harrowing situations as she works to uncover the killer.
The characters drew me further into the book. This is especially true for Sarah and Frank, who both have some developments in their private lives that helped bring them to life. The story is told in third person point of view from both of their perspectives, which also helps us get to know them better. And I’m enjoying the slow burn romance that neither one of them is willing to admit to yet. The supporting players are just as strong. In fact, one provides some nice laughs at the end of the book.
All of this really helps bring the time and place to life. When I was reading, I felt like I was in summer of 1896 in New York City.
Since Murder on St. Mark’s Place is the second in the series, I obviously have a long way to go to catch up. But based on the two I’ve read so far, I’m looking forward to doing just that.