Thursday, May 21, 2015

Well Researched Historical Mystery in Victorian Era Brooklyn

As a child, Mary Hendley saw a murder. Ever since, she has wanted to be a detective. Unfortunately for Mary, detective jobs for women are non-existent in the 1800s. Instead of living her dream, Mary works in a sweatshop making hats.

Because of the political climate, Chief Campbell, head of the Brooklyn police, is forced to hire a woman to investigate the murder of W. W. Goodrich's brother. Goodrich worked for Edison as a bookkeeper and was privy to the competition between Edison and Tesla. J. P. Morgan also figures in the story as Edison's backer.

Due to a series of misadventures, Mary happens to be in Campbell's office. She appears to know something of criminology, and he offers her the chance to head the investigation.  

Mary's new role is not an easy one. The police are unhappy that a woman got this plum assignment. In addition, Mary's best friend Kate was engaged to Goodrich and is understandably depressed by his murder. Although there are many difficulties, Mary revels in her new job and vows to find the murderer.

For me, the best part of the book was the attention to historical detail. The information about the rivalry between Edison and Tesla is not generally known and paints Edison is a less flattering light than usual. The way Mary is treated by the police and the role played by the women demonstrating to give women a chance to have jobs with the police are very well done.

The first third of the book has too much backstory for my taste. It turns out to be relevant, but it took a long time for the murder to occur. Because so much is backstory, the author does more telling the story than showing Mary's reactions. Improving this technique would involve the reader more.

The plot is good once Mary starts hunting for the murderer. There are plenty of twists and false leads that keep you guessing. If you like historical mysteries, this is a good one.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.