Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced plot with engaging characters
Cons: One tiny one with the climax
The Bottom Line:
A séance, locked room
A puzzling mystery
And great characters
Murder at a Séance
In the first ten books of the Gaslight Mysteries, there had been a running sub-plot involving midwife Sarah Brandt’s late husband’s murder. When that was resolved in the last book, I was curious to see where the series would go next. I got my answer with Murder on Waverly Place.
Sarah Brandt is surprised when her mother, Mrs. Decker, comes to her one day and asks Sarah to join her at a séance. Sarah doesn’t believe they are anything other than tricks, but Mrs. Decker is desperate to talk to Sarah’s older sister, Maggie, who died several years ago. She is hoping to get forgiveness from Maggie’s spirit. Sarah goes, but nothing she experiences convinces her that it is at all real. She hopes that her mother has moved on as well.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Decker hasn’t. She attends her next séance alone, but it ends when a member of the group is murdered. Hoping to avoid a scandal, she quickly sends for Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy and Sarah. The two begin to look for clues as to what happened. The lights were out, and everyone was holding hands, so how was the victim killed?
This is an ingenious locked room mystery. I was as interested in the how as the who, and both kept me reading the book. I finished it in record time because I just had to know what was going on. The solution is logical and satisfying when Sarah and Frank reach it. I do have one quibble with the climax, but it is a minor issue.
As always in this series, both Sarah and Frank drive the plot, and they share time as our viewpoint character. I really do enjoy this technique, and author Victoria Thompson does a great job of using it to advance the story. It also helps us get to know both of them better, and I love watching them grow as characters. Yes, their very slow burn romance is still in play as well. And I laughed at a few of their interactions.
While we don’t get to see Frank’s family, we do see plenty of the people in Sarah’s life. I really enjoy watching this family she has created for herself, and the characters are growing book by book.
And that applies to the characters introduced here as well. The suspects are strong, and pulled me so much into the book that I might have gasped at one of the plot twists. (Not that I’m admitting to anything.)
If you are new to the series, I should mention that these books are set in the past. Specifically, this book is set in 1897, New York City. I love this glimpse at how people lived back then.
I know I started out talking about the previous book solving a major series storyline. Honestly, you could still pick this book up and enjoy it as a standalone. Yes, there are references to past events, but there are no spoilers at all.
And I definitely recommend you pick up Murder on Waverly Place. This book will have you turning pages until you reach the satisfying final page. I’m already plotting my next trip back in time to visit Sarah and Frank.
Travel back in time with the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.