Book Review: Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mystery #17)

Setting: Turn-of-the-century New York City

Synopsis: As Sarah and Frank prepare for their upcoming wedding, Frank is hired to look into the death of a wealthy man, Charles Oakes. This mystery involves poisoning, mental asylums, the Civil War, and racism.

Review: The Gaslight Mysteries are as strong as ever! These are very enjoyable mysteries set in New York City, and the two main characters are Sarah Brandt, a widowed midwife and daughter of an old money family in New York City, and Frank Malloy, an Irish former detective with the New York City Police Department. Frank and Sarah have an easy, believable relationship. The series starts out with them meeting in the first book, Murder on Astor Place, and then details their animosity towards each other, to their friendship and reliance on each other, to their falling in love.

The mysteries are quite good and give a somewhat clean eye to turn-of-the-century New York City. They sometimes delve into the seedier side of the city, but mostly stay to the upper class and family drama and secrets. I love these types of mysteries. This one is no exception. This one deals with the suspicious death of Charles Oakes, and he ends up killed by my very favorite murder weapon, poison. Also, Charles had recently been hired as the superintendent of Manhattan State Hospital, “The Asylum”, which is another storyline I love to read about. Bring in a family affected by the Civil War and you’ve got your mystery!

I believe this is the first of the Gaslight Mystery books to bring in the Civil War, which is surprising to me. Being set in the time period it is set in, I would think more would’ve been said in past books about the Civil War. I almost immediately figured out “who-done-it”, but I didn’t know why they did it. And that is what I find interesting in mysteries – I want to know the story behind the murder, and I want it to mean something.

Bottom Line: A solid addition to the Gaslight Mystery series. Absorbing mystery, even if the who-done-it is somewhat obvious.

You might like to read:

  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – starts out in 1803, and follows the real life story of the Grimke sisters, focusing on a friendship between Sarah Grimke and her slave, Hetty.
  • The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – set in the 1890s, this book tells the story of American heiress Cora Cash and her search for a husband and her eventual marriage to an English Duke.
  • The Molly Murphy mystery series by Rhys Bowen – Irish immigrant Molly Murphy becomes a private investigator in turn-of-the-century New York City.

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