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Murder on St. Mark's Place

de Victoria Thompson

Sèrie: A Gaslight Mystery (2)

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5671435,054 (3.78)45
In turn-of-the century New York City, midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy see birth and death--and even murder...
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Es mostren 1-5 de 14 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Sarah Brant delivers the third child of Agnes and Lars Otto when Agnes' 16 year old sister, Gerda, is murdered. She promises to try to find out who killed her. When she contacts Malloy, they discover that 3 other young women have also been murdered in the same way. Gerda, Lisle, Hetty, and Bertha are shop girls who go to dances most nights and provide "favors" to men for gifts such as beads, hats, and shoes. ( )
  baughga | Sep 16, 2021 |
Once again Sarah Brandt is delivering a baby in the "bad" section of town. When the sister of her patient is murdered she is drawn into the investigation. There are rumors that the murdered girl was a Charity Girl and the killer was a man with means. Sarah certainly has the ability to move in circles Malloy can not access. Meanwhile, Frank Malloy is slowly but surely becoming more and more indebted to her as she helps him find care for his son. ( )
  amoderndaybelle | May 27, 2021 |
Murder on St. Mark's Place is book two in Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mystery series. Our heroine, widowed nurse-midwife Sarah Decker Brandt, is called to deliver Agnes Otto's third child. Poor Agnes is having to deal with being in labor at the same time that she's mourning the brutal murder of her younger sister, 16-year-old Gerda Reinhard.

Gerda had been sent to America in the hopes that she would find a husband as her sister had. Gerda had found a factory job, as girls did before they found a husband. As often true today, the workers weren't paid much -- certainly not a living wage. After the workday at Faircloth's, Gerda loved to go to dance halls with her friends. This is enough to put her in the category of 'bad girl' in the eyes of her brother-in-law and the neighbors. A good girl would have been home instead of being beaten to death in a filthy alley. She was identifiable because she was wearing red shoes. Gerda claimed to have saved up the money to buy them herself, but it was suspected that she had become a 'charity girl'. (Such girls assumed they were not prostitutes because they had sex for gifts instead of money.)

If you've ever read Hans Christian Andersen's 1845 cautionary tale, 'The Red Shoes,' then you have some idea of how shocking wearing red shoes was back in the 19th century. If not, the reactions of some of the supporting characters should make it clear that they were no footwear for a respectable girl.

Sarah asks for the help of our hero, Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, because the murder is weighing on Agnes' spirits. Sarah fears that her new little girl will fail to thrive. Seeing their mother in such a state isn't helping her other two children, either. Agnes' husband, Lars, isn't being supportive. He won't even let Agnes openly grieve for her sister because Gerda has brought shame upon their family.

Sarah isn't familiar with dance halls, but she learns about them from Gerda's friends. She even visits one, although she has to wear a tacky hat and cheap beads to look less out of place. (Factory girls often skip lunch so they can afford to go to dance halls, so Sarah's offers to treat them to food while they chat are most welcome.)

While talking to Gerda's friends in chapter two, Sarah learns something unexpected that raises the stakes for anyone who cares about the welfare of the charity girls.

Gerda's souvenir photograph from Coney Island provides an excuse for Ms. Thompson to have her main characters visit the place and describe it for us. (Read the author's note for a liberty she took with historical accuracy.) Coney Island's brand of fun is looked down upon by the upper crust, so Sarah's never been there before. When Sarah and Frank visit Coney Island, she meets a fellow Knickerbocker, Dirk Schyler. What was Dirk doing there?

In book one we met Frank's three-year-old son, Brian, whose birth caused his beloved Kathleen's death. Like Colin Craven in that childhood classic, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Brian is the living image of his beautiful mother. Brian has a club foot, so he can only crawl. Frank and his widowed mother, who looks after the boy, think Brian is feeble-minded. Sarah isn't so sure. This time she visits to observe Brian. What she tells Frank is hard for him to believe. Could Sarah be right? It's an interesting subplot.

By the way, there really was a heat wave in Eastern North America, including New York City, in 1896. Luckily, the book tells us it's early July. The murderous ten days will happen in August. Almost as many New Yorkers will die as passengers and crew died when the Titanic sank.

NOTES:

Chapter 1:

a. St. Mark's Place is the heart of New York City's 'Little Germany'.

b. It's no mistake when the author describes Gerda as having blond hair instead of 'blonde'. 'Blonde' is the feminine noun form. The adjective form is the same as the masculine noun form, 'blond'. (They're French words and French is big on masculine and feminine forms.)

c. See book one, Murder on Astor Place, for Sarah being locked in an interrogation room at police headquarters.

d. While Brian's curls are still red-gold, his eyes are green instead of blue in this book. That will be corrected in a later book.

e. Look here for another of Mrs. Elsworth's superstitions, this one involving bubbles in a teacup. (Sarah's next-door neighbor's name won't be changed to 'Ellsworth' until book three, Murder on Gramercy Park. Her first name, Edna, won't be revealed until book twenty-two, Murder on Trinity Place.)

f. Interesting that Sarah can fry a pork chop better than Mrs. Malloy can in this book. In chapter 3 of book four, Murder on Washington Square, Frank doesn't think Sarah is as good a cook as his mother. Perhaps Sarah is just better at frying.

Chapter 2:

a. Sarah tells Frank why she thinks what she thinks about Brian.

b. I'm not surprised that the church Gerda's service is held at is the United German Lutheran Church. My late mother was born in Wisconsin in 1923. One of the summers we visited her parents in Appleton, she took us to see her girlhood church, St. Joseph's, some blocks away from Grandma & Grandpa Deschler's house. I asked why they attended there when my grandparents lived next door to St. Mary's. Mom told me that St. Joseph's was the German Catholic church and St. Mary's was the Irish one.

c. The murders definitely considered to be by Jack the Ripper took place in 1888. There were articles about him in American newspapers, too.

Chapter 3: Gerda's friend, Lisle Lasher, is paid $6 a week at Faircloth's. Her family lets her keep only a dollar or two, out of which she has to pay for lunch, trolley rides, and her clothes. Admission to a dance hall is 15 cents. Sarah's last suit cost her $7.50. (A shirtwaist is an old name for a blouse.)

Chapter 4:

a. We get more of Mrs. Elsworth's superstitions, these involving weddings.

b. Look here for some information about Coney Island.

Chapter 6: Mrs. Elsworth has a superstition involving buttons. Later in the chapter she talks about one involving a knife and a fork.

Chapter 8: Mrs. Elsworth explains how one must make corn dollies if they are to bring good luck.

Chapter 10: Mrs. Elsworth explains what it means to see a white cricket.

Chapter 13:

a. It's Mrs. Elsworth again, although it's about scissors this time.

b. Frank tells Sarah about how Kathleen died.

As usual with this series, one mystery was very easy to guess. As is also usual, Ms. Thompson got me with something I never saw coming until Sarah did. I love reading about late 19th Century New York City and I enjoy the main cast. This time it's her father that Sarah sees for the first time in three years. I enjoyed their argument until Elizabeth Decker put a stop to it in a way that made Sarah see her mother in a new light.

Also seen in a new light is Sarah's nosy and superstitious next-door neighbor, Mrs. Elsworth. I give her two enthusiastic thumbs up for the stunt she pulls in chapter 14. Sarah didn't do so bad herself in chapter 13. On the romantic front, Sarah and Frank are liking each other better than they want to, not that either is willing to let the other know that. As for the help Sarah gives Frank regarding his son, Brian, Frank thinks that solving the murder of Sarah's husband, Tom, should be a good way to pay her back. I definitely recommend this series to fans of historical mysteries. ( )
  JalenV | Aug 7, 2019 |
Sarah Brandt is mid-wife to Anna Otto who just learned her sister Gerda was murdered. Grieving is not allowed because Gerda, a new immigrant from Germany, was embarrassing the family being a “Charity Girl”.

Charity Girls refers to the young women who worked in sweat shops but went out dancing night after night, looking for fun freedom, and pretty things. They would take presents for their favors, but not money because they weren’t prostitutes!. The majority of the money they earned ($6 a week) went to the family where they lived. They were usually only left with a dollar a week to pay for their lunch, the trolley to work, and the clothes they wore.

Sarah tells Detective Inspector Frank Malloy that three other girls had been murdered in the same way and area. She than asks him
to help her find out who killed Gerda.

The writing style, the window into a time gone by, and the characters that inhabit this story kept drawing me into the tale until the final page, I can’t wait to read more. ( )
  Bettesbooks | May 8, 2019 |
Murder on St. Mark's Place
4 Stars

Attending to a routine delivery, midwife Sarah Brandt learns that the pregnant woman’s younger sister has been murdered. The victim, Gerda Reinhard, had been supplementing her seamstress salary by “working” as a “charity girl” - a young woman who exchanges her “company” for trinkets and an evening’s entertainment. With little police interest in the case, Sarah enlists the aid of Detective Frank Malloy and the two uncover a trail of death that leads from Coney Island to the drawing rooms of Fifth Avenue.

As with the first book in the series, the mystery is straightforward and predictable, but the historical setting and character development shine through.

Frank and Sarah's slow burn romance is the highlight of the story as the two begin opening up to one another albeit reluctantly. Readers also learn more about Frank’s son, Brian and his physical impairments, and about Sarah’s strained relationship with her father.

The details on the social conditions of women at the turn of the 20th century are absorbing. Whether it be the young girls using their feminine wiles to stretch the social and financial boundaries that constrain them, or the married women forced to cope with multiple pregnancies and often times abusive husbands, the lives of the women of the time were harsh and cruel.

The mystery is well-developed despite its simplicity and there are some gripping moments in which Sarah must struggle for her very life. That said, the ultimate culprit and explanation are quite obvious mainly due to the fact that there are few worthy suspects.

All in all, a well-written and entertaining historical mystery and I will be reading the next book sooner rather than later. ( )
  Lauren2013 | May 24, 2018 |
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It was so eminently reasonable solution that Sarah and her father gaped at her in astonishment. Sarah suddenly realized that she had done her mother a great injustice. She had judged her by the wrong standards and found her lacking when she wasn't lacking at all. She was clever and intelligent, and although she abided by a set of social rules Sarah found ridiculous, Elizabeth Decker did have a mind of her own and knew how to use it. Had she been a man, she might have pursued a successful career in diplomacy, if her work here today was any indication of her abilities. Instead, she had managed to negotiate a peaceful settlement to a family matter. Sarah thought such a success almost equal to an international treaty, and to her, of much more importance. (chapter 8)
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In turn-of-the century New York City, midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy see birth and death--and even murder...

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