Murder in the Bowery
Gaslight Mystery, Book #20
By Victoria Thompson
Author Website: victoriathompson.com
The latest Gaslight Mystery from the bestselling author of “Murder in Morningside Heights” finds Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy searching for a connection between a murdered newsie and a high society woman with dangerous habits.
Frank Malloy’s latest client is the well-dressed Will Bert. He s searching for his brother, a newsboy named Freddie, so he can share his new financial good fortune. Frank makes quick work of the case and locates Freddie, but a happy reunion between brothers is not in the cards.
When Will’s name is mentioned, Freddie runs off only to be found dead a short time later. Suspicious, Frank tracks down Will who spins a tale of lust and deceit involving a young society woman, Estelle Longacre, also recently deceased. Frank can’t be sure if Estelle’s risky behavior and the company she kept was to blame, or if her own ruthless family had a hand in her death.
Frank will need Sarah s help to unearth the dark secrets of the wealthy Longacres and to discover if there is a connection between Estelle and Freddie s death. Together they must navigate a perilous underground web of treachery to find the truth.” (Goodreads)
Murder in the Bowery is the Victoria Thompson’s 20th novel in her Gaslight Mystery series, and it is fresh and fabulous. Her historical research history is thorough, especially the manner in which she includes real events. Her eye for detail adds rich colors and shadows to the sweeping landscape of 1899 New York City.
Frank and Gino are ready and waiting for a new client in Frank’s PI agency. Will Bert is a well-spoken young man who is looking for his younger brother Freddie. He claims that they were separated as a result of going west on the Orphan Train several years earlier. Will inherited the shop and holdings of the man he had worked for and wanted to take his brother to Minnesota to share his good fortune. It sounds like a straightforward case, but to find a 13-year old boy who may or may not have returned to NYC after leaving his adoptive family sounded quite literally like a needle in a haystack.
Frank had empathy for Will; he and Gino checked various sources as they looked for Freddie. The more they search, something doesn’t add up so they decide that when they do find Freddie, they will not tell Will where to find him – that they would let Freddie know where Will was staying so he could choose. After all, Will had no place for them to find him, and life – and trust – was different in the Bowery, where Freddie was familiar with a gangster, Black Jack Robinson, yet was hiding from his regular places. Will was surprised they found him so quickly, seemed to recognize Black Jack’s name, yet would come back the next afternoon to see if there was an update. The next day, however, Freddie had been found dead, and the body of a well-dressed young woman had been found near where he was a couple days earlier. Certain that the murders were connected based on the method of murder, Frank and Gino put forth their best work to not only find the young woman’s family but to find who murdered Freddie. What a surprise they had for Will the next time he arrived at their office for an update….
If I needed the help of private detectives, these would be the type of guys I would want on my side! Frank had been a police detective and Gino a young police officer with before opening the office. Even though, with the inheritance that surprised Frank, he and his bride would not have to work, Frank is diligent, not one to sit around; he looks at both the details and the big picture. Gino was a young man with good instincts who continues to learn from Frank and is a most excellent partner for him. Frank’s bride, Sarah, worked as a midwife, and their nursemaid, Maeve and Gino are heading towards being a couple. Sarah, Maeve, and even Sarah’s mother (who has secretly enjoyed the roles she played) provide helpful suggestions and sometimes participate in the men’s work when needed. Each of the characters are finely detailed, even those who may have minor or temporary roles.
Even though I am a comparatively recent fan, I love this historical cozy mystery series! And thankfully, each novel in the series can be read as a standalone as the author fills in the blanks about the regular characters. This mystery intensifies with every clue, every person, which makes it that much more interesting. The historical element, the characters, and the challenge of the multi-faceted mystery make it a five-star novel for me. We see a slice of life for those in the bowery in contrast to those who have huge homes and servants, and everyone in between. We also see people with various physical and emotional challenges, from Frank’s son, who is deaf, to those who endured incestuous family relations, and young children and teens who are orphaned. While we think progress occurs too quickly in our lifetime, the people at the turn of the 20th century sometimes struggled to get used to telephones and early days of motorcars such as Gino wanted Frank to purchase. Peeling through the layers of deception to try to understand who the bad guy(s)/ gal(s) are is a challenge, and I’m not sure who I am more surprised by – those who are innocent or those who are guilty! Surprise it is, however, and the mysteries are solved leaving no loose ends. I highly recommend Murder in the Bowery, especially to those who enjoy well-written and executed cozy mysteries and historical mysteries from the end of the 19th century.