Thursday, April 16, 2009

Murder on Waverly Place-Victoria Thompson

Murder on Waverly Place
Victoria Thompson
Berkley, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425227756

At the turn of the twentieth century, Mr. and Mrs. Decker are one of the wealthiest couples in high society New York City, but their daughter Sarah Brandt chose to work as a midwife in the rundown tenement neighborhoods. Sarah’s mother asks her to accompany her to a medium’s house on Waverly Place because she is desperate to contact the spirit of her dead older daughter Maggie; she wants to ask forgiveness for what she and her spouse did to Maggie and her husband.

Sarah understands though she believes contacting spirits is a hoax; she goes with her mother to Madame Serafina’s séance. While the room is totally dark, the customers hold hands in a circle around a table; the medium speaks. A baby cries and Mrs. Decker believes it is her dead granddaughter. They leave, but Mrs. Decker returns several times praying Maggie will forgive her. At another séance, someone kills client Mrs. Gittings. Mrs. Decker calls Sarah’s “special friend” Police Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. He and Sarah catch Serafina’s lover trying to sneak away. Frank assumes he is the killer, but Sarah and the medium think otherwise. The two feisty females need to figure out who amongst the guests is the killer; the problem is everyone universally detested the victim.

Victoria Thompson’s latest “Gaslight mystery” brings back a bygone era so vividly readers will believe they attended séances during the first decade of the twentieth century. Fans of the series will relish knowing why Sarah became a midwife and more about why her parents’ didn’t disown her for her work amidst the city poor. Newcomers as well as readers of the previous murders on Manhattan streets novels will enjoy this well constructed mystery with plenty of viable suspects who have motives and opportunity. Sarah is her usual independent resolute self as she scrutinizes the people in the room where the homicide occurred. MURDER ON WAVERLY PLACE is another fabulous historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner