Friday, August 16, 2019

Book Review: Murder in Chinatown by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #9)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, characters, sense of time
Cons: All cons left in the past
The Bottom Line:
Chinatown teen lost
Dynamic duo on case
Time travel with book

Missing Girl Leads to Murder

With the previous book in the Gaslight series, we got a chance to explore Little Italy in New York City in the 1890’s.  For the ninth book in the series, we turn to a different section of town with Murder in Chinatown.

If you are new to the series, it really features two protagonists.  Sarah Brandt is a midwife, who travels all over the city helping any woman who needs her at the birth of their babies.  Frank Malloy is a Detective Sergeant in the NYPD, which is currently under a bit of reform thanks to their commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt.  Much to Malloy’s dismay, Sarah’s work seems to keep putting her in situations where she runs across murder, and she has a knack for helping him solve crimes.

As this book opens, Sarah has vowed to stay away from solving crimes and getting involved in anything dangerous after a recent close call.  However, she is in Chinatown with the Lee family since Cora Lee is about to give birth and gets a front row to the family drama unfolding.  Cora’s niece, Angel, is upset that her father has arranged a marriage for her to an older man and runs away.  The family is frantic to find her because the city is no place for a fifteen-year-old to be alone.

While the family does find her, she turns up dead a few days later.  Sarah manages to get Malloy involved in the case because she fears other police won’t care to fully investigate given who the victim was.  But can Malloy figure it out?  Will Sarah get involved despite her promise to stay away from murder?

With the last book set in Little Italy, the racial tensions weren’t below the surface but actually caused some very tense scenes.  This book also brings up racial issues of the 1890’s, but it does so without the added drama.  Still, we get a very clear picture of how the Chinese were treated in the 1890’s, and it isn’t pretty.

Not to worry – this book doesn’t forget it is a mystery.  These details are woven into a plot that moves forward quickly, always giving us a new clue or red herring to keep us guessing.  I thought I had a couple of things figured out, but I was completely wrong about them.  However, when everything comes together at the end, it all made perfect sense.

Some of the books in this series feature a true partnership, with Sarah and Frank contributing equally to the solving of the murder.  Others feature one or the other more heavily.  I would say this book leans a little toward Frank since Sarah is trying to stay out of danger.  Now, this isn’t to say we don’t see plenty of her, and she still manages to get involved in quite a bit of the story.  It really doesn’t matter who is taking the lead since I enjoy spending time with both of them.  I also enjoyed the time we got to spend with the supporting players; I’m especially enjoying how Mrs. Ellsworth’s roll in the series has evolved.  Of course, the book is filled with new characters.  They all felt real to me, even those who just had a couple of scenes.

This series never fails to transport me to the 1890’s, and this book is no exception.  It’s in the small details of what life was like back then, and I really do enjoy these trips back in time.

Fans of the series will be interested to note that a couple of on-going storylines get some nudges forward here, and it looks like one has been set up to be the focus of the next book in the series.  I’m dying to get to it now.  However, if you haven’t been reading the series, you could easily jump in here since we get any background needed and these storylines aren’t given much page time.

If you are looking for a trip back in time, I can’t think of better tour guides than Frank and Sarah.  Grab Murder in Chinatown today and settle back for the trip.

Enjoy more trips back to the 1890's with the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

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


  1. Thank you for your inclusion of Victoria Thompson's book, Murder in Chinatown. I enjoy the Gaslight Mysteries.

  2. I love this series though I've just recently discovered it. I need to go back and read the earlier books.


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