“A taut, suspenseful, and complex murder mystery with gorgeous period detail.”—Susan Elia MacNeal
Through her exquisite prose, sharp observation and deft plotting, Mariah Fredericks invites us into the heart of a changing New York in her remarkable debut adult novel, A Death of No Importance.
New York City, 1910. Invisible until she’s needed, Jane Prescott has perfected the art of serving as a ladies’ maid to the city’s upper echelons. When she takes up a position with the Benchley family, dismissed by the city’s elite as “new money”, Jane realizes that while she may not have financial privilege, she has a power they do not—she understands the rules of high society. The Benchleys cause further outrage when their daughter Charlotte becomes engaged to notorious playboy Norrie, the son of the eminent Newsome family.
But when Norrie is found murdered at a party, Jane discovers she is uniquely positioned—she’s a woman no one sees, but who witnesses everything; who possesses no social power, but that of fierce intellect—and therefore has the tools to solve his murder. There are many with grudges to bear: from the family Norrie was supposed to marry into, to the survivors of a tragic accident in a mine owned by the Newsomes, to the rising anarchists who are sick of those born into wealth getting away with anything they want. Jane also knows that in both high society and the city’s underbelly, morals can become cheap in the wrong hands: scandal and violence simmer just beneath the surface—and can break out at any time.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A historical mystery novel
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks takes readers back in time to New York City in May of 1910. Jane Prescott is a lady’s maid for the Benchley’s daughters, Louise and Charlotte. Charlotte is the more vivacious and fashionable of the girls. She sets out to capture Robert “Norrie” Newsome despite the rumors that he is practically engaged to Beatrice Tyler. In September, Charlotte tells her mother that Norrie has proposed, and it is decided to announce the event on Christmas Eve at the Newsome Annual Christmas Eve Ball. When it is near time for the announcement, Jane goes looking for Charlotte and finds Norrie dead on the library floor. Inspector Thomas J. Blackburn is assigned the case and Charlotte finds herself a suspect. Jane with the aid of reporter, Michael Behan delves into Norrie’s life. There is a myriad of suspects who all had good motive to eliminate the victim. Join Jane Prescott as she sets out to catch a killer in A Death of No Importance.
A Death of No Importance had a good beginning that drew me into the story. After a while, though, the pace slowed down and the content was less captivating. The book became political with the author being on the side of the poor (the rich industrialist versus the working-class poor). We get detailed descriptions of the indulgences of the upper classes. The author tried to capture the time-period by including various historical happenings including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (it was a devastating fire that killed 146 people—mostly immigrant women), Hull House, and the bombing at the LA Times Building They were not integrated into the story properly (felt like add-ins) and had nothing to do with the mystery. The murder mystery appears complex, but the solution was apparent. The book needed action and active investigating that would help move the book forward. The investigating that Jane can do is limited due to her gender and ability to leave her work (she does manage it at times though). The story is told from an older Jane Prescott (reliving her younger days). Jane is an observant main character whose eye for detail aids in her solving the case. A Death of No Importance had a disappointing ending (a big letdown). A Death of No Importance was not the right fit for me.