2nd in the Gaslight Mystery series
Author: Victoria Thompson
ISBN: 0-425-17361-5 (Berkley)
Finished: 9 August 2007
Who: Sarah Brandt, midwife and Frank Malloy, detective
When: July 1896 — approximately three months since Murder on Astor Place
From the back: Thinking she has been summoned by German immigrant Agnes Otto to usher a new life into the world, Sarah Brandt is greeted by the news of an untimely death instead. It seems that Agnes’s beautiful sister, Gerda, had fallen into the life of a “Charity Girl”. Caught up in the false glamour of the city’s nightlife, she would trade her company — and her favors — not for money, but for lavish gifts and an evening’s entertainment. And now she was dead, victim, no doubt, of one of her “gentleman friends”.
In the second book of the Gaslight Mystery series, Sarah sets out to solve the murder of a young German girl. She enlists the aide of Frank Malloy, the widowed detective who helped her solve the murder in the first book.
This time the task is much harder. Gerda went out with several men and probably only ever knew their first names, if it wasn’t an alias. The odds are staggering but Sarah questions Gerda’s friends with the hope that she’ll get lucky. When Sarah and Frank learn that there are several, unsolved murders with the same M.O., they realize they might have a serial killer on their hands and other girls may be in danger.
On a more personal front, Sarah’s brief observation of Brian Malloy, Frank’s 3-year-old handicapped son, convinces her that the boy isn’t feeble-minded, like his father and grandmother believe. Sarah sets out to convince Frank of her theory and also recommend a surgeon who might be able to help with Brian’s club foot. In return, Frank told her how Kathleen died and has forgiven Sarah for being a midwife, just as she’s forgiven him for being a cop.
Several people are under the impression that Sarah and Frank are involved. Sarah, wanting and cherishing her independence, isn’t on the husband hunt and really doesn’t view Frank as a love interest. Yet. Frank, very much a typical man of his time and place in history, spends a great deal of time with his jaw clenched in exasperation at Sarah’s behavior. She knows he has a strong sense of justice and she uses that to her advantage. And she knows his weakness is Brian. Despite all the fuming and teeth-grinding he does because of Sarah, he’s nonetheless falling in love with her.
Though Thompson’s books don’t have the same emotional impact for me as P. B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney books, I still like Sarah and Frank. They feel very real to me and I’m looking forward to seeing their relationship evolve.