Monday, 20 June 2011

Murder on Bank Street by Victoria Thompson

This is the tenth book in the Gaslight Mysteries series by Victoria Thompson. As such, there may be spoilers pertaining to earlier books in the series. Considering that each book’s plot is fairly independent of events in previous books, there shouldn’t be any major give aways, though.

Author: Victoria Thompson started out writing historical romances. In the late 90’s she turned her attention to cosy mystery instead. Now she writes about midwife, Sarah Brandt, and her policeman friend, Frank Malloy. In each book they team up to solve a different murder. I was attracted to this series because it is set in late 19th century New York, which is a new setting for me.

Presentation: Mass market paperback. The print is quite small but spaced in this book (editions of earlier books in the series are not spaced, I prefer this look.) There are 324 pages broken down into 16 chapters.

Story: Sarah Brandt is a widow. 4 years ago her husband, Doctor Tom Brandt, was murdered. The police never launched a proper investigation into the murder as they did not receive a “reward” (the police back then were, apparently, corrupt and would only investigate if they were paid to do so as their salary was so low that they could not afford to do otherwise) from Sarah or her parents, the Deckers (members of the elite New York society). Since he met her, Malloy has found himself indebted to Mrs Brandt: she has not only helped him with numerous murder investigations, but more importantly she brought him to understand that his son, Brian, was deaf with a club foot that could be fixed by surgery (permitting him to walk) and not both a physical and mental cripple doomed to a life depends on others. And Malloy wants to return the favour by finding the man responsible for Doctor Tom’s death. Now, Frank Malloy, widower himself, has received permission from police commissioner Roosevelt himself to reopen this cold case in light of new evidence. But Roosevelt is due to leave office to accept a role in the government within just a few short weeks. No new commissioner would ever allow Malloy to continue to investigate a murder that happened four years ago, so he finds himself having to rush an investigation he would rather not rush. And that means having to get extra help on board.

Thoughts and impressions: I put off reading this book for about a month. I’m not sure why as I devoured the previous 9 books in the series very quickly. Maybe I’d just given myself an overload of it, but no matter the reason, I got back on track and polished off this book within an afternoon.
It was interesting to finally look into Tom Brandt’s murder, to learn more about these women who were forming romantic attachments to men who’d shown them nothing more than common courtesy. Tom Brandt’s death has been looming over the series since… well, really since three years before the events in the first book even took place! Maybe with that out of the way we’ll finally be able to see some real advances in the relationship between Sarah and Frank, though I am beginning to believe nothing will happen until Felix Decker gives Frank his permission to court his daughter. At least that the start of this book Sarah admitted to herself that she loves Frank, which I think was the first time she’s ever put it so plainly!
As for Tom Brandt… well, I’d begun to believe that maybe he had been hiding his true nature from his wife. Even the author herself said that when asked about it, she wasn’t sure whether Tom was a good guy or not, and events in previous books pointed to the possibility that he wasn’t.
Maeve came into her own in this book. She even got a POV. That was the first time in ten books that any character other than Sarah and Frank was given a POV. I’m not sure how I feel about this, though I did enjoy her story with little Iris. She was certainly more interesting than Sarah, who regressed in this book. She seemed to spend her whole time upset with everyone and everything because her husband might not have been the saint she’d believed him to be and her father didn’t pay for the investigation.

Style: Nothing much to say about it. I like it, it draws me in.

Final verdict: Not as good as some of the earlier books, but better than others. I enjoyed the read. It reminded me of why I like Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy so much! 3 stars.

Extra notes: No sex, no swearing. More aimed at an adult market than anything else.


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