Saturday, April 13, 2019

Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks

Mariah Fredericks brings back Jane Prescott, a ladies' maid in the early twentieth century in New York, in Death of a New American. The first in the series, A Death of No Importance, was one of Library Journal's top ten mysteries of 2018. While this historical mystery is slow-moving at times, the story it tells is topical. Jane Prescott is an astute amateur sleuth.

It's 1912. The headlines are about the sinking of the Titanic and the upcoming march for women's suffrage. But, Jane has little time to spend on headlines. The Benchley family is heading to Long Island, to the estate of Charles Tyler. William Tyler, a poorer relative, is marrying Louise Benchley, and Jane's accompanying the nervous bride-to-be. While William is described as "kind", everyone knows of the heroic Charles Tyler, who heads up a task force to put down the Italian mafia, the Black Hand. That's one reason Jane is surprised to see Sofia, an Italian nanny, for the Tyler children. And, Charles Tyler's wife, Alva, doesn't seem at all pleased with the nanny.

The calm, capable Jane befriends Charles Tyler's young daughter, Mabel, so Mabel runs to her in the middle of the night. She's heard her baby brother screaming, and knows Sofia would not have left him. Jane finds Sofia's body, and the window to the nursery opened, but young Frederick is there and unharmed. The family story is that Sofia must have been working with the Black Hand to kidnap Frederick. Jane doesn't believe the story, and Mr. Benchley doesn't seem satisfied either. Despite Charles Tyler's protests, Benchley asks Jane to work with reporter Michael Behan to investigate and find the truth.

The summary will have to suffice so I don't reveal more about the surprising ending. However, this book is so topical as it deals with suspicion and fear of new immigrants, and the roles and expectations of women. Perhaps you'll be as moved as I was as Jane observes the parade of suffragettes, remembering the women's marches of today. Mariah Fredericks does an excellent job combining history with contemporary feelings.

Mariah Fredericks' website is

Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks. Minotaur, 2019. ISBN 9781250152992 (hardcover), 304p.

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


Christie said...

Just picked it up at the library and it is on my tbr pile. I think I reserved it because you mentioned it in upcoming releases.

Lesa said...

You might have, but you probably read the first one, Christie.