The future looks bleak when Mary Handley is fired from her sweatshop job in Brooklyn. She’d held her tongue long enough at the Lowry Hat Factory and finally gave her boss, the Widow Lowry, a piece of her mind. “After all, if you didn’t call a pig a pig, it might never know it was one,” she tells the widow. Now both poor and jobless, she shows up at her police officer brother’s Second Street Station, hoping for a meal.
It’s 1888 and a lot is going on in New York. Women are starting to demand their rights. Powerful entrepreneurs like J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and Jay Gould are wielding their influence and the genius inventors, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are in the middle of a war of currents.
In Brooklyn, Mary is not about to listen to her mother’s advice to find a husband. She has a sharp mind and an independent streak and isn’t ready to settle down. “Have you no interest in betterin’ yourself?” her mother asks.
Mary gets her chance at a new career when Charles Goodrich, Thomas Edison’s bookkeeper, is murdered. In a public relations move, Police Chief Patrick Campbell offers Mary a job as a detective, the first female officer in New York. Mary doesn’t have to think twice before she says yes.
What follows is a very entertaining historical fiction mystery with lots of action and twists and turns. Second Street Station is based on the actual Goodrich murder case in which the real Mary Handley was a key part of the investigation. A large cast of historical figures, including Morgan, Edison and Tesla, figure in the story. Lesser-known characters also cast doubt, leaving almost no one beyond suspicion.
In Levy’s story, Mary’s knack for figuring things out carries her far into the investigation, but she lands in many dangerous situations. It’s great fun to imagine Mary in these scenes and to cheer for her as she goes up against mysterious assassins who are determined to take her down. Levy offers just enough clues along the way to engage the reader. There’s a promise of a resolution, but plenty of surprises wait at the finish.
I very much enjoyed reading Second Street Station, which is the first in Levy’s new series of mysteries and I think the historical element greatly enhances an already winning story. In particular, Levy portrays Thomas Edison in a very different way from what is taught in schoolbooks, making me want to know more about his driven and creative personality and about his fierce competition with Tesla. Levy has a fun writing style and gives the story an authentic feel by adding great details unique to the time period. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, Brooklyn on Fire, available Spring 2016!
Click here to read more about about Levy and the historical characters in this book including some interesting links about the case and life during the 1880s.
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!