Gaslight Mysteries: Murder on Astor Place (1999)
Murder on Astor Place (1999)
Sarah Brandt is a widowed midwife who practices her trade in new York city in the late 1800s. Theodore Roosevelt has just started his attempts to reform the New York police, and society is starting to change–although slowly. In the midst of this, Sarah becomes caught up in a murder, as she was one of the last people to see the victim alive.
What I particularly liked about this book was that Sarah’s history was such that her involvement in the murder made perfect sense. Sometimes historical mysteries come across as much as fantasies as mysteries, as we have to suspend disbelief at the reasonableness of the actions of the heroines. In Murder on Astor place Victoria Thompson does an excellent job creating a characters whose actions are both believable and understandable, and fit in with her place in society during that time.
For this alone I’d recommend the book.
The mystery is also well-built, as we slowly discover not only the individuals that surround the mystery, but we also discover who Sarah is, and why she has become the woman she has.
There are a few caveats about this mystery–when my grandmother started this book she was very enthusiastic about the mystery and the characters, saying she thought she was going to enjoy it. Then it appeared back on the shelf with no comment. Now it could be she just started a new book and forget to tell me what she thought about this one, but I’m guessing that part of the story–especially towards the end of the book–didn’t sit with her so well. (As I suspected it might not.) Hopefully without giving anything away, Sarah is a midwife, so she is not disturbed by discussing sex in a way that other women of her class at that time were. And to be honest, I found part of the ending rather squicky myself.)
However, despite that, this is a strong book and a strong mystery, and one that I recommend, if nothing else for the development of the Sarah’s character through the book. Will I pick up the second book in the series? That I don’t know.