While the Detectives are Away
For the eighteenth Gaslight Mystery, author Victoria Thompson does something different. For me, the risk paid off as I enjoyed Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue.
When Maeve answers the door, the last thing she expects is a woman desperately looking for Frank Malloy. Mrs. O’Neil is a former neighbor of the Malloys, and she is anxious to find Frank because her daughter, Una, has just been arrested for the murder of her husband.
The problem is that Frank and his new wife, Sarah Brandt, are in Europe on their honeymoon. So Maeve jumps into the investigation, aided by Gino and Sarah’s parents. Will the four of them uncover what really happened?
If you are new to the series, the changes here might not mean much, but fans will immediately figure out what has changed. Normally, Frank and Sarah are the main characters, although the characters I’ve named before have all helped out with the cases the pair have faced in the series. I’m not sure how I would have felt about that going into this book blind, but I knew what was going to be happening before I picked it up, so I didn’t mind at all.
It helps that I love these characters. It was great to see them get chances to shine without Frank and Sarah around. Maeve and Gino’s flirting was fun, and I always laugh when Sarah’s parents are on the page. Their reactions to things and each other is just priceless.
The mystery itself is puzzling. I wasn’t sure where things were going until the end. Despite some of the fun we had elsewhere in the book, the mystery itself is pretty serious, and the book juggles the tones appropriately. I did feel that the “compare notes and theorize” scenes between the detectives could have been better summarized at times to speed things along, but that’s a minor complaint since I had trouble setting the book down, which is always an issue with this series.
Unfortunately, there were some timeline issues with the ending. While the climax makes perfect sense, the characters forgot a day in there. If they would have remembered that day, the climax would make even more sense. It’s a pet peeve of mine, so I do have to mention it, but it is a minor issue overall.
This book is considered a Christmas entry in the series. There are a couple of references to the holiday, and the final scene takes place a couple of days before Christmas, but it isn’t a heavy aspect of the books. Fans won’t be surprised since the emphasis has always been on the mystery and the characters’ relationships to each other. Since the series is set in the late 1890’s in New York City, I got a kick out of seeing the beginnings of some of the traditions we know and love now.
Fans of the series will enjoy the uniqueness that is Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue. If you are new to the series, you might not get quite as much from it, but the mystery and characters will still draw you in.
Enjoy the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.