Sunday 25 May 2014

Death on the Ladies Mile

Finished May 24
Death on the Ladies Mile by Diana Haviland

This novel is set in the fall of 1882 in New York City. Amanda Whitney is a young woman, well-born, whose family lost their fortune due to fraud from her father's business partner. Her father has since died and her mother has found a position as a paid companion. Amanda's independent spirit has led her to a position as a society reporter for the Ladies Gazette, and she has been assigned to cover what is anticipated as the biggest wedding of the season. Amanda has written several stories on the preparation for the wedding, talking mostly with the bride's mother as the bride seems shy and subdued. The bride's family is one that has recently made a large fortune thanks to the bride's father's entrepreneurial spirit, and the marriage to the son of an old New York family is his way of getting a stronger foothold in high society.
One day, when Amanda comes to the bride's family home to do a story on the wedding gifts, the bride appears to have disappeared. Amanda learns that the bride has been found dressed in all her wedding clothes in an alley next to one of the most exclusive brothels in the city, strangled with her bridal wreath. The bride's father has hired a private detective, ex-policeman Ross Buchanan, to find the murderer quickly. As Amanda encounters Ross, she too wants to find the man who did this to the quiet young woman she met, and uses her job and contacts to find information that Ross doesn't have access to.
Ross is reluctant to have her involved and worried about her safety as some of the people involved live in bad parts of town and may not hesitate to do her violence, but when she does encounter violence it comes from an expected quarter. As more women are found dead in bridal dress, the city erupts in a fear for young women.
I liked Amanda's independence as she struggled to be true to her own self and live on her own as much as she can within the confines of the society she needs to conform to. Her sensibilities are challenged here as the details of the case emerge, but despite these she perseveres in her sense of justice.

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