Turning the Tide
Quaker Midwife Mystery, Book #3
By Edith Maxwell
Author’s website: edithmaxwell.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
A suffragist is murdered in Quaker midwife Rose Carroll’s Massachusetts town
Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and movement leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to town to rally the troops. When Quaker midwife Rose Carroll finds the body of the group’s local organizer the next morning, she can’t help but wonder who could have committed the murder.
Rose quickly discovers several people who have motives. The victim had planned to leave her controlling husband, and a recent promotion had cost a male colleague his job. She had also recently spurned a fellow suffragist’s affections. After Rose’s own life is threatened, identifying the killer takes on a personal sense of urgency.
What an incredible historical mystery! This is the exciting third offering in Edith Maxwell’s Quaker Midwife Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone, so well has the author developed the characters and shared background on Rose Carroll’s family. The author masterfully weaves a complex mystery into the well-researched, historic presidential election of 1888 and the suffragist movement. Included are real people who we’ve heard of in American literature and women’s history. If one has read the earlier novels, there is continuity regarding the town’s development.
Rose Carroll is a 25-year-old dedicated midwife and Quaker. She knows many of the families in Amesbury, Massachusetts, both working class and prominent citizens, including John Greenleaf Whittier. She lives with her late sister’s family, made up of her brother-in-law Frederick and five nieces and nephews. With the 1888 presidential election imminent, the local Amesbury Women’s Suffrage Association meets to coordinate efforts for a peaceful protest at the local polling place to keep the issue of giving women the right to vote in front of the voters. It is the first meeting that Rose has attended, this time with her close friend Bertie. Rowena, a very successful attorney, has spoken this evening, and Rose was looking forward to hearing her again. She had no way of knowing it would be the first, and last, time.
Rose was called out to attend a birthing, keeping her busy until the wee hours of the morning. As she pedals her bicycle towards home, she approaches a home from where she saw a familiar-looking red shoe sticking out from under a bush. Rowena, still wearing the red shoes Rose had noticed earlier. Dead, murdered she learned when the police arrived.
This mystery takes us from the suffragists’ peaceful demonstration, all wearing yellow banners for the cause, to the attempted shooting of a well-known woman at the place of polling, to a prestigious law firm. Rose kept her ears and eyes open around people who might not ordinarily feel comfortable talking with police. She and police detective Kevin Donovan were able to compose a list of those who might have murdered Rowena. There were several, including Rowena’s husband, from whom she planned to obtain a divorce, local men who despised women seeking the vote, a man who lost a promotion he felt he deserved to Rowena, and another suffragist whose advances Rowena had spurned,
In the meantime, Rose is confronted with struggles in her home and a delightful visit from her mother. She also faces challenges from the mother of the David Dodge, the man she is betrothed to, and from her local Meeting House of Friends, who would not allow her to attend any longer her if she to marries outside her faith. Then the threats to her life started.
In every aspect, this is a clever and stimulating novel. I love how the author brings this era to life through Rose, her family, and friends. Even those who have a different point of view are well portrayed. The character development brings Rose, her mother Dorothy, and oldest niece Faith to life. While we didn’t see as much of David, Rose’s betrothed, this time, as a doctor planning to marry a midwife, he is a forward-thinking man. I enjoy seeing Rose’s apprentice and the lengths the young woman is willing to go to in order to follow her calling.
There are many surprises and twists throughout this novel. There is one person who the police suspect for the murder, and they are being pressed by the influential widower to solve the murder. Rose, however, believes the man when he claims innocence and has not yet been convinced of any of the other suspects. Without DNA, databases, or the resources we do today, arriving at a solution seems almost impossible! This armchair sleuth couldn’t come up with the full solution; I couldn’t rethink it anywhere as well as the author executed it. I highly recommend this novel, from the mystery to the Suffragists’ movement, seeing Rose as part of those who are ‘turning the tide’ toward the 20th century!