Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Gaslight Mysteries: Murder in Chelsea

If you haven't picked up the Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson yet, I highly recommend that you do.  If you have and want a review of the latest book, skip to the bottom.  If not, here's a little description of what the series is about:

Set in turn of the century New York City, the stories revolve around Sarah Brandt, a young widow from an upper class family who eschewed that lifestyle to marry for love.  Her husband was murdered years before, but she carries on working as a a midwife and when her work gets her caught up in a murder, she does her best to help solve it.

Detective Frank Malloy is of Irish descent, which in late 1800s NYC means lower class.  The police are looked down upon as thugs since they frequently solve crimes based upon how much you bribe them to clear your name.  Malloy is different in that he has integrity, and while the bribes to bolster his meager salary, he actually looks for whodunnit.  He lives with his mother and his young son.  His wife died in childbirth and he blames the midwife for her death.  Needless to say, Sarah and Frank's first interactions aren't all that pleasant.  However, they learn to work together and to help each other solve the mystery.  They become friends and it eventually becomes obviously that they love each other, but perceived class restrictions keep them from one another.

The stories take place all over New York, and it's neat to learn how the neighborhoods first started out and what they've turned into today (if you're familiar with NYC).  It also involves a lot of New York history, which I'm not all that familiar with.  The Irish were looked down upon, but more so were the Italians, and the two did not like each other, and the Chinese...well, that's an even worse story.  The city's politics were determined by a thing called Tammany Hall (which according to the interwebs, was the Democrative Party in NYC that helped immigrants enter politics), which seems to have been very corrupt.  New York's aristocracy, called Knickerbockers (descendents of Dutch settlers of New York) had mansions on "Marble Row", which has long since been turned into sky scrapers, but used to house the creme de la creme of NY society.  Class segregation is a big theme in these books, particularly the difficulty to elevate oneself.  Basically you have to be born into a Knickerbocker family, or be filthy stinking rich.

The first book is called Murder on Astor Place

Now that I've helped you understand why I love the series so much and what's been happening over the course of 14 books, I give you my review of book #15, Murder in Chelsea

Murder in Chelsea
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 Stars

When someone comes looking for Sarah Brandt's foster daughter at the mission where she was found, Sarah, Sgt Det Frank Malloy and her family set forth to find out if the real parents are worthy of the child. But when a murder crops up, they have to do everything they can to protect the little girl before she becomes the next victim.

I was waiting (quite impatiently) for my library to get the book for me, so I read it less than 24 hours.  Sarah and Frank usually only work together on mysteries, but since this involves Catherine, Sarah's foster daughter, the whole family (even her father) stepped in to keep Catherine safe. It was nice seeing Sarah's parents, the Deckers, interact with Malloy. Especially her father, since he's been so disapproving of Frank. I can't remember how the last book ended (it's been a year!) but they must have come to an understanding because Mr. Decker finally put Frank on equal footing.

This is the 15th book in this series, and if you are like me and have been waiting and waiting for something to happen to the couple, well, I think you'll be happy with the ending. I know I was! I'm looking forward to the next book - I hope Mrs. Ellsworth and Frank's mother figure into the story more. I enjoy Mrs. Ellsworth's craziness and Frank's mother's orneriness.  I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5 because I could have done with a bit more romance there at the end.  But that's just me - I'm a hopeless romantic at heart.

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