Author: Victoria Thompson
Copyright: 2001 (Berkley) 329 pgs.
Series: 3rd in the Gaslight Mystery series
Who: Sarah Brandt (midwife) and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy
Where & When: Autumn 1896
Summary: At a summons from Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, Sarah arrives at the elegant home of famed magnetic healer Edmund Blackwell to find his wife in labor — and the good doctor dead from an apparent suicide. Only Malloy sees what no one else wants to: that Blackwell was murdered in his own home. After a successful delivery, the Blackwell baby falls mysteriously ill. Relying on her nurse’s training and women’s intuition, Sarah discovers the source of the baby’s sickness — and discovers a scandal that leads Malloy’s investigation down a gilded path paved with greed, deception, and desire.
Comments: At the beginning of the book, Frank is relieved that the case he’s been assigned to isn’t a murder and there is no possible way that Sarah can somehow get involved. Poor guy. Shortly after he arrives, he learns that the very pregnant wife of the late Edmund Blackwell is the person who found the body. The shock has sent her into full labor. There’s no question as to who Malloy will send for, and his consolation is that the case is a suicide and there won’t be any need for Sarah to get more involved. Again, Malloy is proved wrong, this time by the evidence at the crime scene. He’s absolutely sure that the man was murdered.
Sarah becomes necessary to the investigation in her role as the midwife/nurse to Mrs. Blackwell and her baby. Letitia Blackwell is confined to her bed and refuses to receive visitors, and it is improper for Frank to intrude. Sarah’s status also allows her to question the staff who are leery of Malloy. Even her Knickerbocker, blue-blood family name comes in handy when dealing with Blackwell’s more influential clients. She’s more than happy to be involved in any way possible, and she is careful when teasing Malloy, for fear he will exclude her from the investigation entirely.
Before long, suspects and motives mount up. It’s like a game of Clue, where Sarah and Frank know the weapon and the room (study/library, with the revolver), but no way to easily eliminate the “who”. Could it have been Amos Potter, Blackwell’s business partner who seems smitten with Letitia? Was it Letitia, with her many scandalous secrets? Or maybe her over-protective father? Then there’s the young man claiming to be Blackwell’s son.
Frank spends a great deal of time at Sarah’s place, discussing the possible suspect/motive combinations and going through Dr. Brandt’s files, looking for a clue to his murder — slim that it may be. Frank continues to be more aware of his feelings toward Sarah than Sarah is about her own feelings for Frank. Sarah still associates seeing Frank with being involved in the murder investigations: anxious to exchange new intelligence and theorize the who and why.
“How did you manage with Brian by yourself?”
“I knocked him unconscious and threw him over my shoulder. He wasn’t much trouble at all after that.”
— Sarah, Malloy (re: Frank’s son, Brian)
Started: 26 May 2008
Finished: 31 May 2008