Murder on Union Square
Gaslight Mystery, Book #21
By Victoria Thompson
Author Website: Victoriathompson(.)com
Frank and Sarah Malloy are enjoying married life and looking to make their family official by adopting Catherine, the child Sarah rescued and has been raising as her daughter. The newlyweds soon discover, Parnell Vaughn, an actor and Catherine’s legal father, is looking to fatten his pockets by insisting on a financial settlement to relinquish his parental rights. Even though exchanging money for a child is illegal, Frank and Sarah’s love for Catherine drives them to take a chance. When Frank returns with the money and finds Vaughn beaten to death, all evidence points to Frank as the culprit.
A relatively unsuccessful actor with no money and little promise, Vaughn seems at first to be an unlikely candidate for murder–particularly such a violent crime of passion–but Frank soon uncovers backstage intrigue as dramatic as any that appears on stage. Sarah and Frank must use all of their resources to investigate Vaughn’s death as Frank’s own life hangs in the balance. (Goodreads)
Murder on Union Square is a comfortable read. Even though it is the twenty-first book in the Gaslight Mystery Series, the characters still feel fresh and the late eighteenth century New York City setting is still fascinating.
In this installment, Frank and Sarah Malloy are ready to make their ward Catherine their own adopted child, but the law requires that her birth mother’s husband (but not Catherine’s birth father) sign over his rights for the adoption to move forward. Actor Parnell Vaughn is more than willing to sign the paper. However, when Frank goes to the theater to meet Parnell, he finds the Parnell beaten to death in his dressing room. Parnell’s girlfriend Eliza is quick to name Frank the murderer which leads to Frank’s arrest. Once out on bail, Frank, along with his investigative partner Gino, wife Sarah, and their nanny Maeve quickly get to work to find the real perpetrator. They do have their work cut out for them, though, because the whole suspect pool is Parnell’s fellow actors, all adept at lying and putting on a show.
The characters and time period are what keep me coming back for more books in this long running series. I suppose not every book can be expected to be the best of the series, and though I liked Murder on Union Square, it is not among my favorites. What keeps me from giving it four stars is the repetitive nature of the book. There is a relatively small suspect pool, and Frank, Sarah, Gino, and Maeve spend a good portion of the book going over the clues over and over again. Since they, for the most part, talk to the same few people repeatedly, the story gets a bit bogged down. And, truthfully, the characters related specifically to this tale are all pretty much unlikable and insufferable. An exception worth noting is one of the smaller cast actors, Verena. She sparkles on the page, and I love that Maeve is jealous of her (perhaps this is the nudge Maeve needs to give Gino a chance). Leading lady Adelia Hawkes is pretty racy considering the era, and she actually is fun to dislike.
The premise of the mystery is solid, but its execution is a bit waffly. As mentioned above, it is quite repetitive, for which the pace suffers. Disappointingly, I identified the real perpetrator almost immediately so I felt like I was constantly waiting for our investigators to catch up. There are other suspects, but none, in my opinion, really had a motive worthy enough. The climactic scene in which the murderer is unmasked is suspenseful enough to salvage the rest of the book.
I like Murder on Union Square. I just don’t love it, but this does not discourage me from recommending it to fans of the series and to readers who enjoy married sleuths and the historical time period.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*