First Line of Prologue: "She thought of the pain as a monster that dwelled inside of her."
Summary: Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy is called to a residence on Gramercy Park to deal with an apparent suicide. Upon arrival Frank is met with a hysterical woman who is very pregnant. The woman is the wife of the deceased. Frank sends for midwife Sarah Brandt to attend to the grieving widow.
As Frank begins examining the scene, he quickly realizes this is not a suicide, but rather a murder made to look like a suicide. Even though everyone claims that the deceased was well liked, Frank discovers this man had plenty to hide. As Frank and Sarah try to put the clues together, the killer seems to be one step ahead.
My thoughts: This series contains several things I enjoy in a book: strong leading characters who continue to develop, a strong sense of place along with historical tidbits, the inclusion of a midwife and a great mystery. Needless to say, this was a great read!
Frank Malloy is a detective with strong morals. While many of the other detectives on the force would take bribes, Frank is adamant about following the clues and solving the mystery rather than lining his own pockets. In each story we learn a little more about his life outside of the police force. He has a young son who is handicapped. His wife died in childbirth, so most days his mother cares for the boy. This part of the story shows that under Frank's tough demeanor there is a tender heart.
Sarah Brandt is always helping someone. Whether she is delivering a baby, or fixing a meal or saying hello to her lonely neighbor, she spends her days working hard. She was raised in an upper-class family, but after her husband died, she chose to support herself rather than return to her parents' home. Both Sarah and Frank continued to develop in this story and so did their relationship. And they do have a relationship, but at this point it is mostly a working one. However, they are both beginning to realize they like spending time with the other.
The mystery was complicated. More than once I was sure I knew who the killer was, but it turned out I was wrong every time. There were a lot of things to uncover along with a big twist before the murder was solved. It was hard to put this one down!
One of the themes included drug use and addiction. It was interesting to learn about this from a historical perspective. As the author says in the note at the end, "[people] are still seeking to escape the problems of this world through the use of narcotic drugs". Another theme that was interesting from a historical perspective was advances in the medical field and alternatives to traditional medicine. The character of Sarah Brandt always brings something medical to the story. I enjoy this.
Here's an interesting historical bit I learned:
"The secrets of preventing pregnancy were passed around in guilty whispers, but anyone who tried to teach modern methods was subject to fines and even arrest."
This is a great series and fortunately for me, there are several more books to keep me busy!