Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Alchemy of Murder-Carol McCleary

The Alchemy of Murder
Carol McCleary
Forge, Mar 16 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322036

In 1885 Nellie Bly began her reporting career at the Pittsburgh Dispatch after reading an inane article about a woman being at fault for a man assaulting her. Two years later, she travels to New York where she seeks a journalist position at the New York World, but the Gotham newspaper Gods rejected her. She sells the idea of going undercover as a woman committed to the notorious Blackwell’s Island Asylum for ten days; Mr. Pulitzer and his managing editor Mr. Cockerill are stunned but accept.

However, once inside as a mad woman, she realizes that Dr. Blum was murdering New York prostitutes. Pulitzer showed no interest, but Nellie was hired for other undercover exposés. She soon learns of a serial killer in Whitechapel London using the name Jack. She went there after Ripper, but failed to catch him. She soon follows the homicide trail to Paris where the World’s Fair introduces the Eiffel Tower while a plague kills many residents, but the killer remains loose. She meets Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde and Louis Pasteur while stalking a psychopath.

This is a superb historical mystery told in the first person by the intrepid heroine. Her obsessive hunt for the prostitute killer spans two continents and several years as the audience obtains a feel for time and place. The two literary greats seem a bit forced into the plot although both assist the intrepid reporter and enhance the era; on the other hand Pasteur is a great inclusion especially his tour of the Paris sewers. Filled with drawings to better describe some of the happenings, readers will enjoy the escapades of four famous people trying to solve the serial murder crimes of the late nineteenth century.

Harriet Klausner

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