Murder on Amsterdam Avenue
A Gaslight Mystery, Book #17
By Victoria Thompson
Author’s Website: http://www.victoriathompson.com/
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
In the midst of Sarah and Frank’s wedding preparations, Sarah accompanies her mother on a condolence call to the Upper West Side, where Charles Oakes, the son of family friends, has died unexpectedly after suffering from a mysterious disease. But Charles’s father believes his son was poisoned, and would like Sarah and Frank to look into the matter with the utmost discretion.
Putting off their own personal affairs, Sarah and Frank soon learn that not everyone wants to know more about Charles’s death, particularly if he was murdered. As they unravel secrets that reach back to the Civil War, they also discover that they are in the company of a very present danger.
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue, the seventeenth installment in the enjoyable Gaslight Mystery series, provides hours of entertaining reading and does not disappoint.
Followers of the long running Gaslight Mystery series will be happy to see former midwife Sarah and former police detective Frank finally tie the knot. Their marriage has been a long time coming, and though the wedding is very much anticipated, it is not the focus of the book. With Frank’s recent windfall, which allows the couple to marry, Sarah, much to her displeasure, must reintroduce herself back into society. She joins her mother in a condolence call to her parents’ friends who have suddenly lost their son Charles. Sarah is surprised when Charles’ father asks to see her before she leaves. He does not agree with the doctor’s claim that Charles died of “gastric fever” and thinks that he was poisoned, thus seeking out Frank’s assistance in finding the truth. Even though Frank does not have all of the resources he once had as part of the police force, he is still able to adequately investigate, along with his sidekick Gino and Sarah, to prove that Charles is indeed the victim of foul play, unearth devastating secrets, and find the perpetrator.
As a huge historical mystery fan, the Gaslight Mystery series is among my favorites. Ms. Thompson provides rich late nineteenth century period detail that never fails to be interesting. In a time when reputation is everything, the author deftly deals with the nuances of high society rules and the distinctions of class, race, gender, and family heritage in the post Civil War era. I think, one hundred fifty years removed from the war, we sometimes forget that just because the North was anti-slavery does not mean that various ethnicities did not face tremendous obstacles.
The murder mystery is well crafted, and Frank and Sarah are very logical in their investigating and methodically peel back layers to find the truth and how it all fits together. I must confess that I figured out Charles’ mother Jenny’s secret, which is pivotal to the entire mystery, very early on. However, this did not diminish the book in any way for me. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the story moving along and interesting, and the murderer’s identity and motivations are heartbreaking.
Of course, the main reason I read the Gaslight Mysteries is for the characters. They are engaging and appealing. Their varying backgrounds and places in society’s hierarchy provide valuable perspective and insight. Sarah and Frank are both intelligent, relatable protagonists. Maeve and Gino are equally endearing, their bumbling romance providing some levity. The children are charming, and I love that Brian is not hidden away because of his disability. Some of the characters specific to this installment are worthy of note. Jenny and former slave Daisy are fascinating, and Charles’ wife Hannah is just terrible in her narcissism and social climbing indifference to her husband’s fate.
Even though this is the seventeenth installment in the series, I think it can easily be read as a standalone mystery. The characters are easy to catch up with, and there are few spoilers for the other books. Murder on Amsterdam Avenue provides a wonderful escape from the present to the world of turn of the century New York. I cannot wait to visit again.