Shelley Freydont’s A GILDED GRAVE is one of my favorite historical mysteries of 2015. In Deanna Randolph, Freydont gives readers a youthful, intriguing heroine and amateur sleuth, but, for me, her setting of Gilded Age Newport, playground for the late 19th century’s wealthiest American families, is the real star of the book. Freydont portrays Newport as lush, pretentious, and full of intrigue. She gives readers insights into the kind of wealth most of us can only imagine, but she also manages to create a heroine who I could relate to. At first Deanna struck me as slightly immature, but Freydont uses that part of her character. Deanna’s only eighteen, and she’s playful and naïve at times, but she matures and develops confidence over the course of the story.
Secondary characters, like Deanna’s maid, Elspeth, and her friend and partner in uncovering the mystery, Joe Ballard, make the story shine. The mystery aspects of the novel are intriguing, but they’re never quite as engaging as the scenes between Deanna and her maid, or Deanna and Joe. As the series continues, I certainly hope to see the relationship between Deanna and Joe develop further. Joe is a particularly fascinating character because he is both inside and outside the super-wealthy social circle in which Deanna moves. Most compelling of all is that Joe himself becomes a suspect when a young maid is murdered at a ball Deanna attends early in the Newport social season.
I will definitely be picking up the next book in this fresh new series, and I highly recommend it for historical mystery lovers.
Gilded Age debutante Deana Randolph is on the cusp of her first Newport season and attends a ball hosted by a wealthy sugar magnate. When a young maid is found dead on the cliffs below the man’s mansion and the fellow she broke an engagement with, Joe Ballard, is considered a suspect, Deanna can’t help but get involved.
First in a new series from the author of the Celebration Bay mysteries
In 1895, the height of the Gilded Age, the social elite spend their summers in Newport, Rhode Island. Within the walls of their fabulous “cottages,” competition for superiority is ruthless … and so are the players.
During her first Newport season, Deanna Randolph attends a ball given in honor of Lord David Manchester, a Barbadian sugar magnate, and his sister, Madeline. The Manchesters are an immediate success—along with their exotic manservant and his fortune-telling talents.
But on the nearby cliffs, a young maid lies dead—and suspicion falls on Joseph Ballard, a member of one of the town’s most prestigious families.
Joe humiliated Deanna when he rebuffed an engagement to her, but while he may be a cad, she knows he isn’t a killer. Now the reluctant allies must navigate a world of parties, tennis matches, and séances to find the real murderer. But a misstep among the glittering upper classes could leave them exposed to something far more dangerous than malicious gossip…