Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wraps up ongoing story well
Cons: A bit of repetition early on
The Bottom Line:
Closing a chapter
As we solve long running plot
Fans will be happy
Solving the Murder of Dr. Tom Brandt
When we met midwife Sarah Brandt and New York City Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy in the first Gaslight Mystery, we learned that Sarah was a widow, and that her husband’s murder had never been solved. That mystery has been a through line in the books, sometimes getting only a mention and sometimes getting a few steps forward. But now, ten books in, it is the main focus of the mystery in Murder on Bank Street.
In the spring of 1897, Frank Malloy has been given permission by NYPD Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to focus solely on solving Dr. Tom Brandt’s murder. However, since people are expecting Teddy Roosevelt to be called to Washington to serve in the new administration at any moment, Malloy knows he must act quickly to solve the case. He has three good suspects and a description of the murder weapon, but he is facing the fact that Tom died over four years ago. He can’t establish alibis, and the killer might have gotten rid of the weapon over the years. He’ll only have one shot at confronting the suspects as well since his best weapon is the element of surprise. Can he gather enough evidence to get the killer to confess? Will Sarah be happy with what Frank learns along the way?
Usually, the books in this series split their time equally between Malloy and Sarah, with both of them contributing to the final solution. This book still splits time between them, but Malloy has a new sleuthing partner in this book, and we get some scenes from this character’s perspective as well. Don’t worry, every time the point of view changes it is obvious and easy to follow.
Instead of actively attempting to solve the case, Sarah spends her time reacting to what Frank has learned. It gives her a great chance for some character development. While we get to see a different side of several characters in the series, and I liked seeing the growth in all of them, Sarah is the one who grows the most. It only makes sense given the focus of the book. And this isn’t to diminish her part in the book. Honestly, it would have felt hallow if we hadn’t had Sarah’s scenes, and her part of the story is just as compelling as the actual investigation.
The case is definitely the focus of the book. There are no subplots here. It is all about the case and nothing but the case. While I do feel we had a bit of repetition early on in the book, it’s a minor complaint overall. I have been invested in this story for nine books now, so I was happy to see the solution and see Sarah get some answers. The solution was logical, but I was kept guessing until the very end.
As always, I was drawn into New York City of 1897. While there are only references to what is actually happening in the world at the time, it is the details of life during the time that make it all come to life for us. It’s in the attitudes and actions of all the characters. This series is such a wonderful time machine.
While much of this book was been set up over the last few books, there is plenty here so that you won’t be lost if you jumped in with this book. Which also means that if it has been a while since you read the last book, you’ll get the reminders you need of where things stand so you won’t be lost either.
This storyline has been such a part of the series for so long, I’m curious how the series will progress now that it has been laid to rest. Other fans looking for the conclusion of this particular storyline will be satisfied with Murder on Bank Street.
Need more trips back in time? Here are the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.
This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.