Murder on Bank Street: A Gaslight Mystery
Berkley, 2008 (2008)
Reviewed by Tim Davis
ational best-selling author Victoria Thompson serves up another Gilded Age page-turner in her 10th
Murder on Bank Street
he catalyst for the intricately constructed plot unfolds in the pulse-pounding prologue; it is 1893 and Doctor Tom Brandt goes into a dangerous New York City neighborhood where he is met by a '
rich fellow with the silk top hat and silver walking stick
' who first upbraids Brandt by saying, '
You ruined my daughter!
' Then, without any warning, the well-dressed gentleman brutally murders the defenseless doctor.
fter the prologue effectively sets the hook in readers, the action moves fast-forward to 1897. Sarah Brandt, the doctor's widow, has been working as a midwife, and more importantly - as a pivotal factor in the novel's plot - Sarah has been a foster parent to tiny Catherine and adolescent Maeve, both formerly residing at the Prodigal Son Mission in Manhattan's lower east side.
t the same time, Sarah's friendship with Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy of the NYPD has been intensifying; in the past year, Sarah and Frank worked together to solve several murders (featured in previous
), but now their growing relationship will face an enormous challenge.
rank has promised to help find out what really happened to Sarah's murdered husband. No one was ever arrested for the crime, and after four years the trail of viable clues is frustratingly cold. Nevertheless, Frank has recently developed a few significant but puzzling leads, especially with respect to the more than a few love-obsessed, delusional, and mentally ill young women with whom Doctor Brandt had been apparently acquainted.
ith the covert assistance of operatives from the Pinkerton Agency and - most surprisingly - with the help of Sarah's foster daughter Maeve, Frank moves ahead with steady progress in spite of stubborn obstacles. However, the apparent facts that Frank is in the process of discovering about the murdered doctor's character and reputation - and the reasons for his death - threaten to destroy the indefatigable policeman's relationship with an increasingly wary and resistant Sarah. The truth, though, will not be denied.
s a highly entertaining tale,
Murder on Bank Street
has plenty of red herrings and dead-ends within the labyrinth that will lead to solving the mystery of Doctor Brandt's murder. And along the way to that solution, readers are treated to fascinating details about life in New York City at the end of the 19th century. The Edgar Award nominated author Victoria Thompson proves once again that she is an absolute master of first-class historical mysteries.
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