Death of an American Beauty
Death of an American Beauty is the third in Mariah Fredericks's compelling series, set in Gilded Age New York, featuring Jane Prescott.
Jane Prescott is taking a break from her duties as lady’s maid for a week, and plans to begin it with attending the hottest and most scandalous show in town: the opening of an art exhibition, showcasing the cubists, that is shocking New York City.
1913 is also the fiftieth anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation speech, and the city's great and good are determined to celebrate in style. Dolly Rutherford, heiress to the glamorous Rutherford’s department store empire, has gathered her coterie of society ladies to put on a play—with Jane’s employer Louise Tyler in the starring role as Lincoln himself. Jane is torn between helping the ladies with their costumes and enjoying her holiday. But fate decides she will do neither, when a woman is found murdered outside Jane’s childhood home—a refuge for women run by her uncle.
Deeply troubled as her uncle falls under suspicion and haunted by memories of a woman she once knew, Jane—with the help of old friends and new acquaintances, reporter Michael Behan and music hall pianist Leo Hirschfeld—is determined to discover who is making death into their own twisted art form.
Set in 1913 Manhattan, Fredericks's engrossing third mystery featuring lady's maid Jane Prescott (after 2019's Death of a New American) focuses on the plight of prostitutes. The Rev. Tewin Prescott, Jane's socially progressive uncle, runs a refuge for former prostitutes on the Lower East Side. When a young woman who lives at the refuge is found murdered in an alley with one of her stockings missing, the protestors who continually harass the residents are quick to accuse Tewin of the murder, and the police are listening. But when a second woman, a department store employee and a former resident of Tewin's halfway house, is murdered and another trophy taken, Jane sees a connection to a similar assault that happened near the refuge years earlier. Jane sets out to locate the woman who survived that assault and perhaps find a killer. No matter that the rich historical detail overshadows the crime solving. Fredericks's portrait of the social disparities of early 20th century New York and of the appealing Jane make this a winner.
The best Jane Prescott book yet!
I love this series and “Death of An American Beauty” is the best yet! As this book happens during Jane’s “vacation,” we get to see a bit more of her personal life and her relationship with her uncle and the women in the refuge that he runs. This allows for even more sharply defined contrasts between the “haves” and “have-nots.” And Fredericks delivers the full rich tapestry of New York during the early 20th Century. The plotting is excellent and I was pleasantly surprised by the reveal. This book hits on all cylinders - I can’t wait for the next installment!