Murder in Morningside Heights

A Gaslight Mystery, #18

The Gaslight Mystery series by Victoria Thompson, is one of the best historical mystery series out there, and it’s always a pleasure to touch base with the recurring characters I have come to know and care for.

Unfortunately, this nineteenth installment was not on par with most of the other books that preceded it.

Sarah and Frank are newly married and independently wealthy, which means they can live a life of leisure now. But, boredom soon sets in and Frank needs something to occupy his time. With his experience as a cop, it makes sense to open his own detective agency, “Confidential Inquires”.

His first real case involves the murder of Abigail Northrup, an instructor at a prestigious women’s college. With the help of Gino, Frank’s former colleague, and Sarah, Frank attempts to solve the crime without bringing a scandal down on the college.

However, he quickly learns that avoiding a scandal could be next to impossible, as Abigail was rooming with two unrelated women, a most unusual occurrence in Victorian times. The number of suspects is shockingly high, as the victim seemed to anger people quite easily. However, the waters become even muddier when another shocking murder takes place at the college. There is no doubt the two deaths are connected, but Frank is having a devil of a time solving the murders. But, as he edges closer to the truth, he could become the next victim.

This story is mildly interesting and loosely based on the concept of “Boston marriages”, a term used to describe unmarried professional women who lived under the same roof and formed close bonds with one another.

While learning how Victorian society would have viewed such relationships is interesting to an extent, Frank often stewed over the nature of the relationship between the women, tiptoeing around it constantly, instead of working the case and trying to find the murderer.

Although Sarah and Frank are married now, the couple showed little affection towards each other, and though their romance was always proper, I had hoped marriage would perhaps lower some of their inhibitions and we might see their relationship take on a new hue, with less formality. Instead, the chemistry between them felt off somehow as they rarely held a private conversation with one another. It was almost as if they were merely friends, instead of lovers, and all the previous tension completely evaporated.

The murder case is very bland, the dialogue dull, with a predictable, thinly veiled plot, that seemed more focused on the phenomenon, in Victorian times, of women becoming infatuated with one another, than anything else, and it was very easy to figure out whodunit, which of course spoils the fun.

While the story is okay as far as it goes, it is certainly not this author’s best work. However, it was fine for passing away a rainy afternoon and hardcore fans of this series will not want to miss an opportunity to visit with Frank and Sarah and their friends for a while.

Book Blurb for Murder in Morningside Heights

In the latest from the bestselling author of Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue, former police sergeant Frank Malloy and his wife adjust to life in New York high society as they investigate a death in the field of higher learning...

After spending his first few weeks as a private detective by investigating infidelities of the wealthy, Frank has a more serious case at hand.

Abigail Northrup of Tarrytown, New York, was her parents’ pride and joy. After graduating from a prestigious women’s college in Morningside Heights, she took a job there as an instructor. She also joined the ranks of the New Women, ladies planning for a life without a husband in which they make their own decisions and make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, her murder ended all that.

When the police declare the incident a random attack and refuse to investigate further, Abigail’s parents request Frank’s help. Of course, he’ll need Sarah’s assistance as she’s more familiar with the world of academia, and it will be far easier for her to interview the lady professors. Yet difficulties arise as they learn that although Miss Northrup may have been an exemplary student and teacher, she lived in a world of secrets and lies…

Night Owl Reviews May, 2016 3.00