by Victoria Thompson
I was hankering to read me some Gaslight Mysteries, so I spent the last week and a half gobbling up a bunch. Here are my impressions.
Murder on Lenox Hill
This volume was a great choice to restart the series after a half-year lapse. In it, Ms. Thompson takes on something other than a murder mystery for most of the novel. A mentally handicapped girl has turned up pregnant and cannot name the father. There is no murder at all until well into the book, and most of the mystery surrounds the girl, the pastor of the family church, a gang of boys who idolize the pastor, and the web of lies they are all involved in.
As far as the relationship between Sarah and Malloy goes, it continues to grow almost imperceptibly. Sarah is now busy with her foster-daughter and now has a homelife. In fact, her homelife is beginning to hamper her ability to solve murders.
This volume was excellent, but I wish it had not cut off so soon at the end, when Sarah and Frank were beginning to enjoy a tender moment, it it is not referred to again in subsequent volumes.
Murder in Little Italy
Unfortunately, I was not as happy with this volume. It was still a quick read, but it was entirely too plot-driven, and the ever-romance between Malloy and Sarah hardly progressed a nudge.
This is a fairly standard murder mystery. A new Irish mom has turned up dead in Little Italy, and a war between the Irish and the Italians is about to break out. Malloy is under a lot of pressure to solve this case. The members of the Italian family are prime suspects, and they don’t like either Sarah or Frank poking around. You get a taste of the predecessors of gangsters in this novel.
It was during this volume that Sarah’s fostering of a little girl, which took place in an earlier volume, starts to seriously hamper the plots of this and subsequent novels. While it was touching for Sarah to take the girl in, I think it would help the plot if a pair of loving parents turned up out of the blue to take her away. Sarah was funner when she was independent. The mysteries are becoming more and more Frank’s concern, and while I love Frank, I read these books for Sarah.
Murder in Chinatown
Unfortunately (and I’m using that word a lot, I know), I think Murder in Chinatown is Murder in Little Italy, remixed with Chinese instead of Italians.
In Chinatown, a lot of Chinese men have Irish wives. It seems that a lot of Irish girls have determined that Chinese men make better husbands than Irish men, which are in short supply anyway. In a comfortable, middle-class Chinese-Irish household, a teenage girl goes missing. Then, she turns up dead.
Unlike Murder in Little Italy, it is the Irish wife who keeps getting Sarah involved in the mystery, despite the fact that this makes Frank very cranky. It was a bit refreshing that Sarah didn’t have to be a busybody here, but it still seems that Frank is taking over all the investigations now that Sarah has a child to be responsible for.
This novel is almost entirely plot-driven. I hate to say it of a series I love, but you could skip this one and miss almost nothing of the over-arching story.
Murder on Bank Street
The title here is misleading — the murder didn’t take place on Bank Street, but since Sarah lives on Bank Street and this is the mystery about her husband’s murder, you know right away that this novel takes on his case at last.
The novel begins with a prologue, so right away you get the sense that this story is going to be different. And it is. Sarah is mostly on the sidelines in this story, which is fine because she could never been a good investigator into her husband’s death. Maeve, the nursemaid for her foster child, becomes a point-of-view character, and as such we get to learn a bit about her. Which is good because this series really needed some additional characters. (I still would like to see a friend for Sarah who is her own age.)
A good possibility might be a female private detective employed by the Pinkerton Agency, who helps Frank with this case. I really enjoyed reading about the Pinks and I hope they show up in future volumes.
One thing I object to is the way it ended. After ten books, we readers deserve a kiss between Malloy and Sarah. Surely Ms. Thompson doesn’t think that just because they kiss, we will lose interest in the novel. In fact, the opposite is true. If Ms. Thompson persists in the glacial pace of the romance, she will lose me.
Otherwise, I’m glad the Dr. Brandt storyline is over, and that it resolved so satisfactorily. Ms. Thompson got her groove back with this novel, and I’m looking forward to the next one.