Saturday, April 10, 2010

Murder on Lexington Avenue-Victoria Thompson

Murder on Lexington Avenue
Victoria Thompson
Berkley, Jun 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425234372

Mr. Edward Higginbotham of the Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes visits businessman and school patron Nehemiah Wooten at the latter’s office. He plans to discuss with Wooten the desires of the man’s pretty sixteen year old daughter Electra, a student at the school; she wants to marry a New York Institute for the Deaf and Dumb teacher Adam Oldham. Higginbotham finds Wooten dead.

Because NYPD Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy has a son who attends the "Lexington School" that Higginbotham runs and the witness asks for him, he is assigned the lead as the brass believes he brings insider information. This proves true as he understands the deep philosophical divide between the rival two schools teaching deaf children. The DS quickly knows the murder weapon is a brass loving cup and learns the deceased is a believer in eugenics as lectured recently by Alexander Graham Bell; as such Wooten opposed two deaf people marrying out of fear they will pass on the hearing flaw to their offspring. However, Malloy makes little progress so when a second homicide in the Wooten family occurs, he hesitantly asks midwife Sarah Brandt, who has helped him on previous Manhattan murder mysteries, to provide him advice.

The latest Gaslight Era murder mystery is a terrific entry that uses the background like references to Bell to set the era while also providing insight into the two predominate education theories of teaching deaf students. The whodunit is complex as Malloy works his investigation assisted by Sarah, but has too many suspects from family, business and school to rule out. Readers will appreciate the latest Victoria Thompson’s historical investigate tale.

Harriet Klausner

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