Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Review: Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson

Murder on Astor Place (Gaslight Mystery, #1)

Murder on Astor Place (Gaslight Mystery #1)
Author:  Victoria Thompson
Publisher:  Tantor Audio (2015)

Sarah Brandt, a widow who supports herself as a midwife, is called out to assist with births at all hours of the day or night.  While assisting the matron of a boarding house with the delivery of her baby, she notices a young woman who looks very much like an old friend of hers.  But it can't be her, as she is much too young.  The young woman returns to her room at the boarding house while Sarah finishes up the delivery.  She returns to the boarding house the next day to check on the mother and baby and finds a crowd of people, along with the police, at the boarding house.  The young woman Sarah noticed last night has been murdered.

Sergeant Frank Malloy has been assigned to the case.  When he learns that Sarah was at the boarding house shortly before the murder, he wants to question her.  She is a bit short with him, so he decides to ask her to search the victim's room to look for clues.  It turns out the young woman was the younger sister of her old friend.  Who would want to murder the young girl?  And why?

This is the first book in the Gaslight Mystery series and that makes me really excited because I can't wait to read more!  The story takes place in the 1890's in New York.  The author's description of New York at that time makes you feel like you are there.  This was a time when class meant a lot.  There were very wealthy, powerful families that lived in large homes with butlers and maids and other servants.  Yet there were also very poor families who lived in squalor and often turned to crime just to get by.  The rich stayed in one area and the poor in another and they didn't mingle.  Teddy Roosevelt was the police commissioner during this time.  Unfortunately, the police force didn't have a good reputation and corruption was rampant.  

I really liked both Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy and hope that their relationship grows in future books. The murder investigation is definitely what drives the story, but we learn a lot about the personal lives of both Sarah and Frank.  I enjoy stories that involve midwives, so Sarah's occupation interested me. She is a hardworking woman who really cares about others.   Frank is also a hardworking, moral person who likes to see justice served.  There are homey scenes where Sarah bakes cookies or fixes stew contrasted with scenes inside the basement of the police precinct or at a "flop house".  

I found the circumstances of the murder and the murderer difficult to hear.  However, I was glad the case was solved.  I look forward to reading more in this series.

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