Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Murder on Union Square (A Gaslight Mystery #21)

Author:  Victoria Thompson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780399586606
Berkley Publishing
336 Pages
$26.00; $12.99 Amazon
May 1, 2016


Sarah and Frank Malloy are enjoying married life and looking to make their family official by adopting Catherine, the child whom Sarah rescued and has been raising as her daughter.  The process seems fairly straightforward, but at the last minute, the newlyweds discover that Parnell Vaughn, Catherine's legal father, has a claim on the child, and his grasping fianceé is demanding a financial settlement to relinquish parental rights.  Even though exchanging money for a child is illegal, Frank and Sarah's love for Catherine drives them to comply.

When Frank returns with the money and finds Vaughn beaten to death, all evidence points to Frank as the culprit.  A not-quite-famous actor with modest means, Vaughn seems an unlikely candidate for murder, particularly such a violent crime of passion.  But Frank soon uncovers real-life intrigue as dramatic as any that appears on stage.

Sarah and Frank enlist those closest to them to help hunt for Vaughn's killer as Frank's own life - and the future of their family -- hang in the balance.


Frank Malloy is an ex-policeman who now owns a private detective agency.  He and his wife Sarah, a midwife, are planning to formally adopt a little girl named Catherine.  But they find out from an attorney that in the eyes of the law, Catherine's father is an actor named Parnell Vaughn, even though he's not the biological parent.  He was married to Catherine's mother at the time of her birth, so unfortunately he still has parental rights.

When Frank and Sarah visit Vaughn at the theater, they discover that he is perfectly willing to sign whatever papers need be in order to relinquish his legal hold on her.  He states quite soundly that she is not his child, and he is not in a position to raise one regardless.  But before Frank and Sarah leave, the young woman with Vaughn, Eliza, demands they pay one thousand dollars in order to gain custody.  While exchanging money for a child is illegal, they are still more willing to find out a way to do so in order to keep the girl; and set a date for Vaughn to sign the papers.

However, when Frank arrives at the theater upon the appointed time, he finds Vaughn's body covered in blood.  When he checks for a pulse, he manages to get some blood on himself, and Eliza arrives shortly after and starts screaming that he killed him.  When the police arrive, Frank is arrested and charged with the murder.  Now it's up to he and Sarah, along with friends Maeve and Gino, to clear Frank's name and find the true killer.

While I enjoyed reading this mystery, set in an historical era, I did feel that it was a tad bit slow going at some points.  Although I do understand that there is a lot to do with murders, and you must ask many people questions in order to find out the truth, I did find it odd that there was never a police officer about who was curious.  While I understand the lead detective believed Frank was the murderer, there was never anyone who even thought that the case might just fall apart unless their one witness was infallible (which, of course, we know she wasn't); and that they would question others just to make sure the case would stand.  But it seemed the only people questioning were the 'Malloy clan'.  Not one officer on the force (it seemed) was even considering that Frank just might be telling the truth and not be a murderer.  It doesn't say much about his time on the force if everyone thought he was guilty.  It seemed to me that if he wasn't liked by even one co-worker, how could he be likable by anyone, including his family and friends?  For people who have never read any other books in the series, this might be a huge question mark, in my opinion.

Aside from that, there was quite a bit of detail, and the separate questioning was thorough; I enjoyed the fact that Frank and Sarah work together a team.  Their talk sessions, where everyone gathers 'round and shares information, trying to sort out fact from fiction, was quite fun to read.

While it was enjoyable to read about theater people 'back in the day', I also found it nice to watch the Malloys as they traveled through their investigation.  While the clues were there it took time to decipher them; and while it wasn't a surprise as to who the murder was, it definitely was engaging in the process.

This is the 21st entry into the Gaslight Mysteries, but it can be read as a stand-alone.  There is nothing referencing earlier books so as to be confusing to the reader, aside from incorporating some characters from those novels.  When all is said and done and the killer is revealed, it was a satisfying ending to a very good book.  Recommended.


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