Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Murder on Millionaire's Row

Murder on Millionaire's Row / Erin Lindsey
NY: Minotaur Books, c2019.
340 p.
This was a delightful and very entertaining read which I recently picked up at my library. I thought it looked good -- a Gilded Age mystery featuring a housemaid and a cook as detectives. Fun! 

But it was more than it first appeared to be. Sometimes it's fun to know next to nothing about a book prior to picking it up. I was well into the book and enjoying it, when suddenly there appeared a ghost. Wait, what? I had no idea that this story was going in that direction. But it worked very well, and I loved the way that the paranormal became, well, normal, in this book.

It's like Amanda Quick's paranormal thrillers crossed paths with a charming historical New York mystery series and interbred, resulting in a cozy-ish, ghostly story with a sense of humour about itself and some fabulous characters -- alongside a well developed paranormal structure with clear rules, and a little bit of romance too. I always love a story with strong female characters, and there are lots of those here. 

Pretty much a book that could have been written just for me! I'm so looking forward to the second volume of this series, which is now on hold at the library as well. 

In this first entry in the series, we meet Rose Gallagher, Irish maid at a Fifth Avenue brownstone, in 1880s New York. Her friend Clara Freeman (the cook, with secret medical skills) supports her even when she thinks that Rose might be overreaching. Clara teases Rose about her infatuation with their employer Thomas Wiltshire, but when he goes missing, Rose can't help but search for him after feeling that the police aren't taking the household's concerns seriously. 

Rose uncovers some hidden talents, as well as a cast of supporting characters that include mediums, witches, freemasons, ghosts, and the local Chinese grocery owners. There is a combination of clever characterizations, amusing repartee, rich descriptions of life in uptown and downtown New York in the era, and lots of fantastical occurrences to intrigue a reader. Rose and Clara in particular, and some of the other women in the story as well, are interesting enough that I can't wait to see where they go next. 

Her employer, whom she eventually rescues from hoodlums, informs her of the presence of the supernatural in their world, and reveals his chops as a paranormal investigator. Because this is a first book, there is a fair amount of explanatory text as the author sets up this world. But even with all that, the pace is quick and the story doesn't lag. There is a great deal of fun but also some discussion of the social conditions in this era which deepens some of the characters, Rose included. 

Definitely an enjoyable read for me. It felt cinematic to me; lots of imagery, description, and concrete details about their lives. Recommended! 

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