Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue
A Gaslight Mystery, Book #18
By Victoria Thompson
Author Website: Victoriathompson.com
Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy and Sarah Brandt are not the only ones who have recently tied the knot. Family friend Mrs. O’Neill was delighted when her daughter Una wed the seemingly wealthy and charming Randolph Pollock. She didn’t wonder why such an affluent man would want to marry a poor Irish girl, no matter how pretty she was. But now Mrs. O’Neill has a problem.
Pollock’s servants have found their employer bludgeoned to death with Una cradling his body. Rendered mute by the horror of her husband’s death, Una cannot explain what happened, so the police have charged her with murder and locked her away in the Tombs to await trial.
Mrs. O’Neill would like Frank to investigate the case and save Una, yet with Frank and Sarah still on their honeymoon, it’s up to the other members of their newly formed household to do some detective work. But solving the mystery behind Pollock’s death means first discovering the truth about who he really is…(Goodreads)
Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue is a wonderful addition featuring minor characters to the long-running Gaslight Mystery series, and Ms. Thompson does a fine job of combining historical fiction and mystery with just a sprinkling of Christmas cheer thrown in.
When the Malloy nursemaid Maeve answers the door to find family friend Mrs. O’Neill on the stoop, she assumes that the woman has learned of Frank Malloy’s good fortune (literally) and is there for a handout. However, Mrs. O’Neill has come seeking Frank’s investigative help because her daughter Una has been arrested for killing her husband Randolph Pollack, and her motherly instinct tells her that Una is innocent. Since Frank and his wife Sarah are away on their honeymoon, Maeve decides to do her best, with the help of her police officer friend Gino Donatelli, to clear Una’s name. Knowing that she will need assistance negotiating her way about high society, Maeve turns to Sarah’s mother Mrs. Decker, and eventually Mr. Decker, too, for help. The more they uncover about Mr. Pollack’s business dealings and personal life, the harder it is to feel bad about his demise. Likewise, though Una claims innocence, she also becomes difficult to believe. As a motley group, the four unlikely friends work together to solve the case as the body count rises before Christmas comes.
Though this is the eighteenth book in the Gaslight Mystery series, it reads just fine as a standalone novel. Maeve is intelligent and independent and does not let her social standing hold her back. She is systematic in her investigating, and I greatly enjoy her interactions with Gino. Their flirty push and pull is entertaining. And speaking of entertaining, Mr. and Mrs. Decker are delightful. Their teasing shows genuine affection during a rather stilted period in history. I can just imagine how potentially boring being a lady in this era could be. Mr. Pollack is a truly despicable character, and he is all too easy to dislike. However, Una is even more disagreeable, manipulative and narcissistic, and I actually wanted her to be guilty by the end. The Victorian era is my favorite historical period, and it is well represented here in nineteenth century New York City. I find the historical details fascinating, and the era enhances the mystery. Though the story is set at Christmas time, it is not really a holiday mystery, but the season does add an interesting contrast to the darker aspects of the story.
I enjoyed Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue and recommend it to fans of the series and of the era. It is a fine mix of historical setting and mystery.