Near Prospect Park
Lawrence H. Levy
In Near Prospect Park, Brooklyn detective Mary Handley takes on New York’s upper crust as she works with Lillian Russell, Diamond Jim Brady and Teddy Roosevelt to solve her husband’s murder.
It’s 1895 and Mary is happily married to Harper Lloyd, an investigative journalist. Despite also caring for their baby daughter, Mary still has her feet in detective work. For Mary is a modern woman, unwilling to sacrifice her ambition and independence to society’s (and her opinionated mother’s) expectations.
William S. Gilbert (of the comic opera team Gilbert and Sullivan) has hired Mary to help him retrieve a ransomed manuscript and, with four thousand in cash, Mary agrees to make the exchange with the thief in Prospect Park. But the meeting goes wrong and in the shocking aftermath, Mary discovers that Harper has been murdered. Fueled on grief and rage, Mary sets out to find his killer.
Mary first turns to her contacts in the Gilbert case, who include actress Lillian Russell and railroad supplies magnate Diamond Jim Brady. Through them, she soon becomes acquainted with blue blood bad boys Stanford White and James Breese. White, a famous architect and photographer and financier Breese have been linked to a raucous party in which fifteen-year-old Susie Johnson was hired to jump out of a pie. Johnson’s claims of rape were largely quashed by the powerful elite. But Mary has not forgotten the scandal of the Pie Girl Dinner and, despite investigating Harper’s murder, she knows she must also get to the bottom of this atrocious behavior. Teddy Roosevelt, president of the New York police commissioners and a strong supporter of women’s rights, also has Mary’s back.
Mary is a risk-taker, but a confident one, for she is a master in jujitsu and she has flattened many foes with her quick moves. She will need these skills as she digs deeper into the case.
I enjoyed this fast-moving and entertaining historical mystery. As in his earlier books, the author includes many historical figures and brings their personalities to life. New York in the 1890s was a rough place, especially for women. The Pie Girl Dinner, an actual event, is just one example of how crimes against women are nothing new.
As in the earlier Mary Handley Mysteries, Near Prospect Park is an enjoyable mystery that incorporates humor into serious themes. Mary’s character is strong, yet vulnerable, making her relatable, even in modern times. I’m looking forward to more Mary Handley adventures!
Want more? Check out these other Mary Handley Mysteries.
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