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on 2 June 2017
Item arrived safe and sound in excellent condition
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on 23 June 2017
Excellent
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When you buy two or three books for every book you read, you wind up with books you fully intend to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. (And now with my blog, it’s even worse.) One such book is Murder on Astor Place. I don’t know for sure when I bought it, but I figure I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for at least a decade, probably longer. After meeting the author, Victoria Thompson, at Malice Domestic this year, I finally dusted it off and dove in.

This is the first book in the Gaslight mysteries, set in New York City 1896. That’s just a few years earlier than Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series started, and it was fun stepping into a city I know (fictionally) just a few years earlier.

Sarah Brandt is a midwife working in the city. One night, she is called out to deliver a baby for a family that has turned most of their home into a boarding house to pay the bills. She sees a young woman living there who reminds Sarah of a friend she hasn’t seen in years.

When Sarah goes back to check on the mother and new born, she discovers that the young tenant had been murdered. Sarah identifies the victim as Alicia VanDamn, the younger sister of her friend. Frank Malloy is the detective assigned to the case, but Sarah doesn’t trust the police to solve the case so she starts trying to find clues herself. Can the two of them solve the case?

This really is a book with two detectives. Despite the corruption of the police at the time (Teddy Roosevelt is trying to reform things as the book opens), Frank investigates as well. The book splits time between the two in third person narration, giving us great clues and twists. When Frank and Sarah come together and share information, we aren’t treated to rehash, but the two of them brainstorm what the clues mean.

Now, if this is sounding like the police are purposefully involving a civilian in a murder investigation, don’t worry. Frank is actually less than impressed with how Sarah inserts herself into the case early on. And their first scenes are almost funny with how the tension unfolds.

The plot really is strong with a steady pace of twists and surprises. I did guess a couple of the twists early on, but I didn’t have the killer worked out at all. I did find the climax a bit over the top and sad, but that is my only complaint about the book.

The characters are already strong. Sarah and Frank are from two different worlds in New York society, which gives them access to different people. It’s a great way to show just how fractured society was at the time. Both characters have their own backstories, which we get over the course of the book. The other characters are just as memorable.

Being a historical novel, there are plenty of details that transport us to not only another place but another time period. And yet, they never slow the book down. The characters and plot are first, just the way it should be.

So I now need to find the time to read the rest of the books in this long running series. It is popular for a reason. Pick up Murder on Astor Place and you’ll be swept back in time and left wanting more.
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on 11 March 1999
In Greenwich Village, midwife Sarah Brandt helps Mrs. Higgins, owner of a boarding house, delivers a boy. The next morning, Sarah returns to the boarding house to insure that her two patients remain healthy. However, she learns that someone murdered another occupant of the boarding house.
Sergeant Frank Malloy, head of the investigation, instantly loathes Sarah because she is a midwife, reminding him of a personal nightmare. He puts her on the spot and surprisingly, she provides him with results as she identifies the victim as the younger sister of a wealthy old school acquaintance. In light of the pressure from his superiors and his personal ambitions, Frank desperately wants to drop the case. However, his conscience forces him to continue his investigation with assistance from Sarah, even as she places her own life on the line.
MURDER ON ASTOR PLACE is a great historical mystery. Though the story line is fast-paced and filled with wonderful characters, the inclusions of genuine facts make this novel much more superior to most of those found in the sub-genre. Turn of the century Manhattan feels so real because of the bits of information such as not being able to see ones' parents because fifty city blocks might as well be the Atlantic Ocean. The who-done-it is intelligently designed and the lead protagonists are a winning combination. However, it remains the City that will provide fans much pleasure and entertainment. Readers will hope Victoria Thompson takes the audience to the Bowery or Broadway for a return engagement.

Harriet Klausner
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on 29 August 2011
This is a cosy murder mystery set in turn-of-the-century New York. A young girl has been murdered in a boarding house, and it's up to midwife Sarah Brandt and Sergeant Frank Malloy, to join forces and unmask the killer.

For a book that started off rather slowly, it didn't turn out half bad, and I'd definitely read more of this series. The plot was a little predictable, perhaps, but I liked Frank and Sarah, and am interested to read more of their back stories. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading - and learning - about New York during this period, which is a topic that I haven't really touched on before: The slums, the larger-than-life characters (Teddy Roosevelt being one) and, of course, the terrible police corruption.....Wikipedia was consulted on more than one occasion during the course of me reading this book!

All in all, I liked this a lot more than I thought I would when I started out with it, and although it won't win any great literary awards, it's a lovely, enjoyable, easy read.
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For those who like historical mysteries, one can't go wrong with this book, which is set in turn-of-the-twentieth century New York City. The author takes the reader from the teeming tenements of the slums to the homes of New York City's elite. Replete with period details and the rigid social mores of the times, the author weaves an intriguing mystery, while introducing the two pivotal characters, Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. This book is the first in a series of books showcasing these two characters.

Sarah is a midwife, who is estranged from her family. They are members of high society. Frank is an Irishman employed by the corrupt New York City Police Department that Teddy Roosevelt, the New Police Commissioner, is trying to clean up. Sarah and Frank are thrown together when a murder occurs and it turns out that the victim, Alice Van Damm, is none other than someone Sarah knew from her upper-crust past.

When the murder is hushed up through the influence of the victim's family, fearful that scandal will impugn their place in society, and Frank is taken off the case, the outraged Sarah vows to seek justice for the victim herself. Frank and Sarah become unlikely partners, determined to solve the mystery surrounding Alice's death.

Frank and Sarah are both likable characters, and the author takes great pains to develop them. Their blossoming relationship is key to the story and, as details of their lives emerge, draws in the reader. There are interesting secondary characters that are intertwined in the story, as well. Those who enjoy historical mysteries will like this book. It is a successful first book in a series, and I look forward to reading all the others.
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on 29 April 1999
This is Caleb Carr and Anne Perry rolled into one. Victoria Thompson writes a brilliant suspense and places it perfectly in old New York. I've fallen in love with the characters and can't wait for the next book!
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on 17 June 1999
Victoria Thompson brings us a great new detective in Sarah Brandt. Being a fan of both Anne Perry and Grace Monfredo, I can rank Sarah right up there with Charlotte and Glynis. Sarah's strength of character and the profession she follows bring her face to face with the daily horrors of the poor at the turn of the century, This gives a different dimension to the stories that I liked very much. This was a time of many great women -- Jane Adams, Margaret Sanger, and the Suffragettes, so the other major character Sergeant Frank Malloy is going to be having an interesting time.
Looking forward to the next one.
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on 31 May 1999
I admit it -- I love books where the author blends little known facts with her plot, and Victoria Thompson has done exactly that with her first mystery. Not only does she give us an intriguing story, but she also laces it with fascinating details about turn-of-the-century New York City.
Colorful characters who come alive, a true-to-life setting and an interesting plot -- what more could a reader ask? The only flaw I found were a number of grammatical errors, notably incorrect homonyms, that the copy editor should have corrected, but those were minor and shouldn't stop anyone from clicking "add this to my shopping cart."
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on 15 May 1999
This is a new historical "amateur sleuth with a hook" book that has real potential as a series. If you read Anne Perry, this is the closest anyone has come to the antagonistic yet attracted relationship in the early Inspector Monk books that I've seen. It's set in turn-of-the-century New York and deals with a midwife and a police detective. The police of that time were horribly corrupt - it's just the way business was done - and our hero works within the rules of his world. The murder story was not as interesting as the glimpses into the society of the time, but the author gives you a well-rounded view of both the top and bottom segments of New York. If the author is able to maintain the detective's conflicted nature in future books, this could be a long-term winner for me.
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