|Midwife and widow Sarah Brandt is from an upper-class family in late nineteenth-century New York City. Her father, Felix Decker, has found it almost intolerable that Sarah has chosen to remain on the Lower East Side and continue the work started by her late doctor husband, and that she has cultivated a close friendship with Irish Catholic Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, though he has gradually come to realize that he cannot browbeat his independent daughter into returning to her old life and doesn't wish to become entirely estranged from her.
He also recognizes what a clever woman his daughter is and that she has often been able to assist Sergeant Malloy with murder cases, especially those that involve victims from the Decker
s social class. Chilton Devries is found dead at the Knickerbocker Club and Decker calls Malloy to look into it, especially after a small stab wound is found on the back of Devries' neck. Sarah and her mother pay a condolence call on Devries' widow, only to learn that she wasn't all that sad to learn of her husband's death, especially knowing that he spent the night prior to his murder with his mistress.
Sarah also learns that Devries may have approached the Mafia about killing his daughter-in-law's mother and realizes, once again, that the rich have many secrets and the money to keep them well hidden. During the course of Malloy's investigation, Sarah realizes that her father is paying careful attention to Malloy but won't admit to why. When the case is solved, he summons Malloy to his Fifth Avenue mansion, a visit that makes Sarah very concerned for the future of her relationship with Malloy and for the future of his career with the often corrupt police department.
As always, Victoria Thompson has written a fast paced, engrossing mystery full of historical accuracies so real that old New York City is brought vividly to life. Sarah is a wonderful, independent character, who has adopted a young orphan and taken in another as the child's caregiver. She cares for her Lower East Side patients as if they had all the money in the world, knowing that she often might not be paid.
And as always, Sarah and Malloy's investigation uncovers things about the rich that show they are more like average people, just with more money to carry out things out that others only think about. Readers will be anxious for Sarah and Malloy's relationship to become more permanent. The most suspense of the novel, for longtime fans at least, comes from the summoning of Malloy by Felix Decker as fans must wait patiently and eagerly, with Sarah, to learn what her father has in mind for Malloy and how it will shape their futures.
-- Jennifer Monahan Winberry