Murder on Wall Street
Gaslight Mystery #24
By Victoria Thompson
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Midwife Sarah Brandt Malloy and her detective husband, Frank, must discover who killed a prominent—but despised—society banker before an innocent family is destroyed in Murder on Wall Street, an all-new Gaslight Mystery in the USA Today bestselling series.
Reformed gangster Jack Robinson is working hard to bolster his image in Gilded Age New York City society as he prepares to become a new father. But when Hayden Norcross, the man who nearly ruined his wife, is shot in cold blood, Jack knows the police will soon come knocking on his door. Frank Malloy has to agree—things don’t look good for Jack. But surely a man as unlikeable as Hayden had more than a few enemies. And it’s soon clear that plenty of the upper echelon as well as the denizens of the most squalid areas of the city seem to have hated him.
Sarah and Frank have their work cut out for them. As the daughter of the elite Decker family, Sarah has access to the social circles Hayden frequented, and the more she learns about his horrific treatment of women, the more disturbed she becomes. And as Frank investigates, he finds that Hayden had a host of unsavory habits that may have hastened his demise. But who finally killed him? Sarah and Frank must put the pieces together quickly before time runs out and Jack’s hard-won new life and family are ripped apart. (From Amazon)
Victoria Thompson’s novels are much more than mysteries. This cozy includes humor with a charming cast of characters and relationships that enhance the story. She brings history to life, giving color and texture to years she researches well. I appreciate seeing what life and work were like before our modern conveniences and how people dealt with new technology. Regarding the new motorcars, one character’s comments include “I don’t expect this mania for motorcars to last. They’re an interesting novelty, but nothing will ever replace horses”. A passenger’s concern as a driver “careened around corners going at least ten miles per hour” brought another chuckle.
New York City in the Gilded Age is a remarkable place. From the very wealthy to those living on the street, from the cops to the gangsters, and everything in between. As in any era, people aren’t necessarily who they seem to be.
Sarah and Frank are great examples of that. Society ladies are somewhat shocked that Sarah, from one of the oldest families of New York, has been a nurse and midwife, and now has a maternity clinic on the lower East Side. Frank, an Irishman and former police detective, is now a PI and is accepted by Sarah’s father. Both of her parents enjoy helping Frank and Sarah with cases that arise from Frank’s business, even as Sarah did when Frank still worked for New York City Police.
Frank’s business partner is Gino, also formerly of the police department. Maeve, the children’s nanny, is their part-time secretary during the school year and has her own unique qualifications. Frank and Gino have a new client, Jack, a former gangster going straight. Jack is now married to Jocelyn, who had been a patient at the maternity clinic after being raped by the son and partner of an investment banker whose firm was on Wall Street.
Hayden, the man who raped Jack’s wife, was found murdered in his office at the bank. With Jack’s background and what happened to his wife before they met, he knows it could be a matter of time before the police look his way. He wants Frank to find who really killed Hayden.
Hayden leaves behind a widow of just over a month. When Sarah and her mother went to offer condolences to Violet, Sarah learned Violet had been raped by Hayden. Her father forced Hayden to marry her under threat of ruining his family’s bank and a promise of a large dowry. He had been horrible to her, playing evil tricks and beating her. She knew her father wouldn’t have killed her husband, as her parents thought she encouraged his actions.
Frank and Sarah, Gino and Maeve, and Sarah’s parents each contribute to the mystery. Hayden was disliked by most, including his own parents. His temper, opium addiction, and womanizing burned many bridges, and even his father struggles to keep him on at the bank due to his poor work ethic. From the exclusive gentlemen’s club to the opium dens, this case keeps them busy.
The main characters have been developed over the course of the series, and their lives are ever-changing. Each is defined with care, as are those who are only in this novel. The author goes beyond appearances with excellent, realistic conversation and actions. There are many scenes in which this reader almost felt as if she were there.
There are many things I appreciated in this novel. If one hasn’t read the series in order, there is sufficient backstory provided on characters. I enjoy reading the author’s historical notes, as it gives me better perspective on the facts and fiction and how thorough her research is. Plot twists heightened suspense and rearranged the suspect list. I enjoyed how well the six couples work together to gather information and put it together. While some behaviors were startling, I had an idea who the killer was. All loose ends were tied up and the conclusion was satisfying. I highly recommend this riveting read.