The mandate to keep food in the house and the cable on means writing for tuppence many hours a day and, sadly, neglecting my novel and all redemptive bard work. It also makes reading a book a day a bitch. So I scavenged the library for literary candy today and came up with a handful of purely entertaining–as in “not challenging”–mysteries that will be quick reads and untaxing escapes from the Current Economic Wars. Murder on Waverly Place fit the bill perfectly. Apparently, Victoria Thompson has a series of amateur-sleuth murders set in historic Greenwich Village, my old stomping grounds, and I thought it would be amusing to read one. Excellent supposition.
Sarah Brandt is a midwife, daughter of a wealthy New York City family, who stubbornly makes her own do-good way in the wicked world, solving homicides with the help of a besotted NYPD detective in her spare time. This time it’s seances, speaking with the dead and fleecing the living that turns bloody and Sarah’s instincts take over as she inserts herself in the homicide investigation. Her mother is involved, as are several people from mum’s social circle, and Sarah first wants to protect her from exploitation and exposure. After a participant in a seance is stilettoed while the lights are out, Sarah also wants to protect the beautiful young spiritualist who channels an Indian chief who produces the dead for conversation. Woo-hoo.
The book was surprisingly decent although it wasn’t very rich in detail about Waverly Place, a real street with real nineteenth-century houses I have been in for various pursuits, including a New Age version of something a bit like a seance. Too bad about that–would have been much more fun to learn endlessly fascinating trivia. But I would read another of Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries because the writing is good, the characters are fine crime-story characters, the plot was nicely shaped (but not a nail-biter) and it required no heroic effort on my part to get through it in a reasonable–and short–amount of time.
Murder on Waverly Place is a good travel read, beach read, shady-bench-in-the-park read, curl-up-in-a-comfortable-chair-with-a-book read. I’m going to look for Murder on Bank Street, another old haunt of mine, and meanwhile, I have a very frothy-looking mystery set on St. John in the Lesser Antilles. Rum! Sailing! Secrets about ancient slave rebellions! Gin-clear turquoise waters! More sailing! (I hope there’s sailing.) Lost pirate treasure! I can hardly wait.
Murder on Waverly Place (Gaslight Mystery) Victoria Thompson | Berkley Prime Crime 2009