Sunday, April 08, 2018

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

If you like compelling historical mysteries that portray social and class inequities, you might want to try Mariah Fredericks' A Death of No Importance. Set during the Gilded Age, the story includes mining disasters, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the execution of an immigrant, anarchism, and murder. And, yet, the author manages to vividly describe the excesses of the rich as the story is told by a lady's maid, an orphan who came from the lower class, and served the upper class.

Jane Prescott looks back at 1910 in her account of what was considered a crime of the century. After the death of her first employee, Jane is hired by the nouveau riche Benchley family. She is to serve as the maid for Louise Benchley and her younger sister, Charlotte. Charlotte throws herself at Norrie Newsome, heir to a prominent family. The scandal provokes an ultimatum, and the couple's engagement is to be announced at the Newsomes' Christmas Eve party. Everyone is uneasy, and there is added security because Mr. Newsome has received threatening notes about his ownership of a mine where over 100 died, including children. When Jane finds Norrie's body in the library, she has multiple reasons to worry. Did Charlotte kill the man who had become inattentive? Or, if anarchists killed him, what did Charlotte's long-time friend know about the murder?

As New York scandal sheets comb through Charlotte's story, naming her as a suspect, Jane teams up with a newspaper reporter to search for stories in the Newsomes' past. Was Charlotte the only one with a reason to kill the Newsome heir?

A Death of No Importance is an eye-opening story that deals with the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the inequities in society. Jane Prescott is an observant sleuth who belongs to neither world. She's an orphan whose minister uncle housed prostitutes to try to give them a second chance. She has a friend, a young woman who is organizing unions and consorting with anarchists. Yet, she lives and works in the Benchley household. She appears to have a foot in both worlds, but, she actually belongs to neither. It makes her a perfect observer.

The mystery is an intricately plotted story that confronts social issues of the time. Fans of Alyssa Maxwell's Gilded Age mysteries may want to try this well-developed book.

Mariah Fredericks' website is

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks. Minotaur Books. 2018. ISBN 9781250152978 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Kaye Barley said...

Sounds VERY good, Lesa!

Lesa said...

It was good, Kaye.

Kay said...

I took note of this book a while ago and really want to read it. And I'm planning to attend a panel at Malice that the author will be on. Can't wait!!

Gram said...

Thanks. I just put it on my library lists.

Lesa said...

Then you should check it out, Kay, if you're going to hear the author. I hope you enjoy it.

Lesa said...

You're always welcome, Gram.