on 22 September 2010
'As a turn of the century midwife in New York City's tenements, Sara Brandt has seen more than her share of joy and sorrow, birth and death. Now, Sarah finds herself in the thick of a scandal that threatens to ruin not only one upstanding family, but an entire community...
A GASLIGHT MYSTERY
When the affluent Lintons of Lenox Hill summon Sarah Brandt to examine their teenage daughter, their worst fears is confirmed: she is with child. The pregnancy is a mystery, however, as the young woman - mentally still a child herself - is never left on her own and denies that any man has ever hurt her. It's a delicate situation, casting suspicion on those close to the Lintons, including their beloved minister, the Reverend Oliver Upchurch.
But as Sarah and a reluctant Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy investigate, fate deals their inquiry a harsh blow. The reverend falls dead during a service - poisoned by the cyanide-laced wine in his chalice.
Now, they must not only uncover the truth behind the Linton girls's pregnancy, they must track down Upchurch's killer before this entire sordid affair wreaks havoc on more innocent lives...'
I really enjoyed this book, though the subject wasn't an easy one.
When Sarah is asked to attend the Linton family home, Sarah finds that their daughter, a young woman with mental health issues, is pregnant. Her parents are horrified particularly as they never leave their daughter alone, so are mystified as to how she could have become pregnant.
Sarah, after making some discreet enquiries with the Lintons, goes to their church, as she feels there is a strong possibility that their daughter was 'attacked' there. However when she gets there she meets the charismatic preacher, the Reverend Upchurch, who encourages the fatherless young boys and teenagers of the parish to spend time in the church, teaching them manners and giving them a male role model.
Mrs Upchurch, though, is not so welcoming, and her behaviour - standoffish to the congregation, flirtatious to the young men, cold towards her husband - rings alarm bells with Sarah.
When Mrs Upchurch tells Sarah that the Reverend and she live in a loveless, unconsumated marriage, and moreover, the Reverend prefers, in the words of his wife, 'younger and more innocent flesh' Sarah is horrified and discusses the matter with Frank Malloy.
Malloy, meanwhile, has been asked by Felix Decker - Sarah's father - to investigate Sarah's husband's death. Despite his better judgement, Malloy feels that if he does investigate the case, he can break any bad news to Sarah gently rather than have her image of her husband tarnished.
Together, Malloy and Sarah discover terrible things have been happening at the church but just before they are in a position to break the case, the Reverend is poisoned by his own communion wine in front of the entire congregation.
So - who poisoned the Reverend? We find out why before hand.
Why do *four* people confess to the murder with such weak confessions?
And who did make the Lintons' daughter pregnant?
As well as all these, Sarah is settling at home with Aggie, the orphan from the Prodigal Son Mission House ('Murder on Mulberry Bend') and Maeve, an older girl who is helping Sarah to care for Aggie. And Malloy's deaf son, now best friends with Aggie, is coming along at the school Sarah helped Malloy to find and get Brian admitted to.
All in all a worthy and enjoyable addition to the series.