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Death of a New American

Death of a New American, April 2019
Jane Prescott #2
by Mariah Fredericks

Minotaur Books
304 pages
ISBN: 1250152992
EAN: 9781250152992
Kindle: B07D2BQGJZ
Hardcover / e-Book
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"Murder in the Gilded Age..."

Fresh Fiction Review

Death of a New American
Mariah Fredericks

Reviewed by Andrea Johnson
Posted April 4, 2019

Mystery Historical

DEATH OF A NEW AMERICAN is Mariah Fredericks' second novel featuring my favorite kind of character: the plain lady's maid, daughter of the Gilded Age, whose unobtrusive appearance belies a bright wit.

If this were a Romance novel, Jane Prescott would charm her way to an heir's heart with her level-headed kindness. As this is a mystery, Jane's prize is not a husband but a murderer.

In Fredericks' first novel, A DEATH OF NO IMPORTANCE, Jane's charge, Charlotte Benchley, comes under strong suspicion when her fiancé turns up dead. Jane, with her drab dress and low social position, can move freely through the world of the American nouveau riche. Helped in her investigation by smart, cute and married journalist Michael Behan, Jane finds the crime's true culprit and revives Charlotte's reputation.

In DEATH OF A NEW AMERICAN, the story picks up in 1912 after the Benchley family has enjoyed two years out of the spotlight. In the interim, their older daughter, Louise, has gotten engaged to the relatively eligible William Tyler. Their wedding, at the Tylers' family mansion on Long Island, is going to be the event of the year and include, rumor has it, a Duchess -- from England. (Frederick' historical research is obvious in her charming comparison of the wedding to 1911's union between Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, at which the food was "supplied by an Italian caterer, not of the first class").

The Benchley-Tyler wedding has some competition in the publicity department, happening the same summer as the Titanic disaster. Is this an ill omen? Of course, it is. For the second time in two years, the Benchleys' matrimonial plans are thrown into scandal by death -- Sofia, the Tyler children's nanny.

Who could have slit the throat of the beautiful young Italian, mere feet from the infant Freddy Tyler? Could it have something to do with Charles Tyler's role as deputy police commissioner of New York City, where he is famous for taking on the Italian gangs? Or is it something more personal -- a romantic rebuff, for example?

Though the novel takes some time winding up to the crime, once we're there the plot is juicy. Fredericks' knack for pithy characterization propels the narrative along, while the plethora of historical detail means the world of 1914 New York is richly drawn if sometimes belabored. Discussions between the downstairs staff of the suffragette marches felt a bit on-the-nose. That said, I loved the color added by mentions of dirigibles and charabancs.

If not for the bloody death, I would have thoroughly enjoyed living in this world -- old money and new, carriages and lady's maids. Though I wanted to see the crime solved, I didn't want the story to end.

Learn more about Death of a New American

SUMMARY

Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks is the atmospheric, compelling follow-up to the stunning debut A Death of No Importance, featuring series character, Jane Prescott.

In 1912, as New York reels from the news of the Titanic disaster, ladies’ maid Jane Prescott travels to Long Island with the Benchley family. Their daughter Louise is to marry William Tyler, at their uncle and aunt’s mansion; the Tylers are a glamorous, storied couple, their past filled with travel and adventure. Now, Charles Tyler is known for putting down New York’s notorious Italian mafia, the Black Hand, and his wife Alva has settled into domestic life.

As the city visitors adjust to the rhythms of the household, and plan Louise’s upcoming wedding, Jane quickly befriends the Tyler children’s nanny, Sofia—a young Italian-American woman. However, one unusually sultry spring night, Jane is woken by a scream from the nursery—and rushes in to find Sofia murdered, and the carefully locked window flung open.

The Tylers believe that this is an attempted kidnapping of their baby gone wrong; a warning from the criminal underworld to Charles Tyler. But Jane is asked to help with the investigation by her friend, journalist Michael Behan, who knows that she is uniquely placed to see what other tensions may simmer just below the surface in this wealthy, secretive household. Was Sofia’s murder fall-out from the social tensions rife in New York, or could it be a much more personal crime?


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