A Golden Cage
A Newport Gilded Age Mystery, Book #2
By Shelley Freydont
Author’s Website: www.shelleyfreydont.com
With her mother in Europe, Deanna is staying with the Ballard family, who agree to chaperone her through the summer season and guide her toward an advantageous marriage proposal—or so her mother hopes. Relishing her new freedom, Deanna is more interested in buying one of the fashionable new bathing costumes, joining a ladies’ bicycling club, and befriending an actress named Amabelle Deeks, all of which would scandalize her mother.
Far more scandalous is the discovery of a young man bludgeoned to death on the conservatory floor at Bonheur, the Ballards’ sumptuous “cottage.” Deanna recognizes him as an actor who performed at the birthday fete for a prominent judge the night before. But why was he at Bonheur? And where is Amabelle?
Concerned her new friend may be in danger—or worse—Deanna enlists the help of her intrepid maid, Elspeth, and her former beau, Joe Ballard, to find Amabelle before the villain of this drama demands an encore. (Goodreads)
Shelley Freydont does an excellent job of transporting the reader to the glamorous Gilded Age in A Golden Cage. Likable characters, a strong mystery, and a compelling setting make for a really enjoyable read.
Deanna Randolph is growing more into her own since she is not under her strict mother’s thumb for the summer. She has made her entrance into society, but she could really not care less about the parties and overtures required to find a match. Since her mother and sister are out of the country, Dee is spending the season with the Ballard family. A highlight of the summer is Judge Grantham’s birthday fete complete with a performance by an acting troupe. Dee is interested to go backstage and meets a member of the chorus, Mrs. Ballard’s friend’s daughter Amabelle. It is such a surprise when Amabelle arrives, distraught and disheveled, at the Ballard doorstep in the wee hours later that night. Even more of a shock is the discovery of a dead actor, Charlie, the next morning in the home’s conservatory, and there is no sign of Amabelle. Where is she? Could she have killed Charlie? If not, is she now in danger, too? Dee, along with her childhood friend Joe Ballard, her ladies maid Elspeth, and police sergeant Will Hennessey, attempts to get to the bottom of things in a world where a glossy veneer is everything, and nothing is as it seems. In turn, Dee’s friends do their best to keep Dee out of trouble.
I seek out historical mysteries, and this second entry in the Newport Gilded Age Mystery series definitely is worth the read. Shelley Freydont writes with panache, imparting a period correct voice to her work. There are plenty of interesting historical details to draw the reader into the story, and I enjoyed walking along beside Dee as she investigated. Dee is a likable young lady, curious, daring, and smart, if a bit naïve. Joe refers to her as an “independent woman in training,” and he could not be more right. She is the epitome of the new breed of lady in a changing era when women were beginning to seek more independence and their own voices. Joe, as Dee’s childhood friend and former “almost fiancé” is a good foil to her flights of fancy. He has a logical, scientific mind and is grounded in the here and now. I like that, even though he has somewhat cast aside the conventions of his station in society, he does still very much belong in that glitzy world of entitlement and wealth. I enjoy their longstanding friendship and look forward to seeing how it changes in the future. His blindness to his true feelings for Dee provides several chuckle worthy moments. It seems that Elspeth and Will are underutilized this time around, and I like them both very much. In A Gilded Grave, the contrast of the upper crust to the lower classes made for interesting interplay, but I find that somewhat missing here.
The mystery within the pages of A Golden Cage is solidly developed and compelling. Though I thought I pinned whodunit pretty early on, there were enough twists and turns to make me second guess myself. The final twist is indeed scandalous, and the reveal dangerous and exciting. I do not want to give too much away.
I greatly enjoyed my time in Newport, Rhode Island, with Dee, Joe, and all the rest. I hope this series has many more installments to come. I recommend A Golden Cage to historical mystery fans and to those who enjoy a plucky protagonist in an opulent setting.