IN A HAVEN FOR FALLEN WOMEN, HAS HISTORY’S MOST DEPRAVED KILLER RISEN AGAIN?
The Back Bay has been filled in. Palm readers and prostitutes ply their trade in South Cove. And the watchword of the day is “NINA:” No Irish Need Apply. Boston in 1892 is a town of Victorian pride, prejudice, and private passions.
Now, on Beacon Hill, a crusading woman and her genteel brother, Addington, are investigating two grisly murders of young women, the work, say police, of “a deranged person.” For Caroline Ames, solving the mystery is a matter of helping an old friend, the woman who runs a home for wayward women known as Bertram’s Bower. But for Addington, the investigation will lead to the revelations of a sexually alluring, scandal-struck actress...and to the secrets of some of Boston’s most “respectable” men.
As Addington confronts the hypocrisy of Brahmin society, he moves closer to a shocking suspicion about the killer’s identity. And as fear grips the city, the evidence points in one frightening direction: that London’s Jack the Ripper is alive, well, and killing again. . .
Did you know that William James, the eminent Boston philosopher/psychologist, invented the term "serial killer" at least 80 years before Hannibal Lecter? Or maybe Peale (aka novelist Nancy Zaroulis) is just having us on in this second book in her Beacon Hill Mystery series (after 2000's The Death of Colonel Mann) about Addington and Caroline Ames, a brother-and-sister team of upper-class crime solvers in Victorian Boston. It's all part of the atmospheric fun, not to be taken too seriously, as the author spends as much time on social customs and ladies' costumes as she does on her somewhat creaky story. It starts with the clich d scene of a policeman losing his lunch when he finds the mangled corpse of a young woman in an alley, continues with the city-wide fear that London's Jack the Ripper has somehow migrated to Massachusetts and ends up with one set of devoted siblings wrestling for their lives with one another in an untrustworthy elevator. In between, the Ames kids venture out repeatedly from their comfortable Louisburg Square home into the unusually wet and cold winter of 1892 to discover who has been slashing former prostitutes now housed by a charitable friend of Caroline's. A good deal of the pleasure comes in between their adventures, through stops at places like the Durgin-Park Market Dining Rooms, where 50 cents purchases a plate of Yankee pot roast and Indian pudding.