Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: Murder in Little Italy by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: None worth bringing to the present
The Bottom Line:
Irish mother dies
Ignites some racial tension
Always engrossing

An Irish Death in Little Italy

I have quickly come to learn exactly what to expect when I pick up one of Victoria Thomas’s Gaslight Mysteries – an engrossing trip back in time that completely captures my interest.  That’s exactly what happened again with Murder in Little Italy, the eighth entry in the series.

The series features Frank Malloy, an Irish police Detective Sergeant, and Sarah Brant, a midwife, in 1890’s New York City.  Their paths seem to keep crossing at the site of various murders around the city and Sarah uses her position to find out information that helps Frank solve the case, much to Frank’s dismay.  The two have also developed very strong feelings for each other, feelings that neither of them are willing to admit to.

Sarah is called by the Ruocco family for a birth in their home over their Italian restaurant.  Antonio’s new Irish wife, Nainsi is in labor, but she is two months early.  However, when the baby arrives, Sarah begins to suspect that the baby is actually full term and Nainsi lied about when she got pregnant.  When Sarah returns for her follow up visit the next day, she finds that Nainsi died in the night – although sarah quickly realizes that Nainsi didn’t die from complications from child birth and sends for Frank.  Since Frank is Irish, his presence draws suspicion from the family.  As the racial tensions in the city over this incident begin to rise, Frank must find a way to solve the case.  Can he do it with Sarah’s help?

The previous books in this series have explored many different neighborhoods and elements of the city at the time, but they have only mentioned some of the racial tensions of the city.  This one brings it to the foreground, and it adds a nice element to the mystery.  It also means that Frank gets a partner in the investigation, a newer Italian police officer, something he hasn’t had in the past.  I hope we see this character again since I really liked him.

The books in the series usual do a good job of balancing Sarah and Frank investigating and finding clues.  I can’t point to anything specifically here, but I feel like Frank did more investigating this time around.  This isn’t to say that Sarah isn’t an active part of the book, but she isn’t questioning people or finding reasons to visit them as much in this book.  She still manages to find out some key information that helps solve the case, so maybe it’s just my perception instead of reality.

Either way, the two continue to be strong lead characters.  While we do get a little forward progress on some on-going storylines, it is very minimal and even some of the supporting players don’t put in appearances.  The focus of this book is on the case at hand without much room for sub-plots.

This case is certainly strong enough to support that.  The new characters are wonderful.  They sprang to life from the first time we met them, and I honestly could have seen any of them being the guilty party before the book was over.  We get several good clues and some red herrings and twists before Sarah and Frank both figure out what really happened.  And make no mistake, they do both figure it out.

Murder in Little Italy is another strong trip back in time to solve a fantastic mystery.  These visits are over all too quickly.  Now to reluctantly return to the present until I get a chance to return to Sarah and Frank’s world.

After reading this, you'll definitely want to check out the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

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