As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder arrives, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood in the latest installment of this bestselling cozy historical mystery series . . .
1901: Back from their honeymoon in Italy, Emma and Derrick are adapting to married life as they return to their duties at their jointly owned newspaper, the Newport Messenger. The Elms, coal baron Edward Berwind’s newly completed Bellevue Avenue estate, is newsworthy for two reasons: A modern mansion for the new century, it is one of the first homes in America to be wired for electricity with no backup power system, generated by coal from Berwind’s own mines. And their servants—with a single exception—have all gone on strike to protest their working conditions. Summarily dismissing and replacing his staff with cool and callous efficiency, Berwind throws a grand party to showcase the marvels of his new “cottage.”
Emma and Derrick are invited to the fete, which culminates not only in a fabulous musicale but an unforeseen tragedy—a chambermaid is found dead in the coal tunnel. In short order, it is also discovered that a guest’s diamond necklace is missing and a laborer has disappeared.
Detective Jesse Whyte entreats Emma and Derrick to help with the investigation and determine whether the murdered maid and stolen necklace are connected. As the dark deeds cast a shadow over the blazing mansion, it’s up to Emma to shine a light on the culprit . . .
Maxwell's satisfying 11th historical whodunit featuring Emma Cross (after 2022's Murder at Beacon Rock) sees the reporter once again investigating murder in turn-of-the-century New England. Emma and her new husband, Derrick Andrews, own and operate the Newport Messenger in 1901 Rhode Island. Emma, the Messenger's sole news reporter, has received a tip from Edward and Herminie Berwind's butler that the entire domestic staff at the Berwinds' mansion intend to strike. Emma heads to the Elms to speak with the staff in advance of their decision; when nearly all the servants vote in favor, the Berwinds fire the strikers. Not long after, Emma is attending a musical at the Elms when chambermaid Ines Varella is found strangled in a coal cart near the property. Emma, who helped persuade Ines not to strike, worries her advice could've gotten the maid killed, so she launches an investigation, only to stumble on a jewelry theft and a second murder in the process. Maxwell manages a vivid re-creation of Gilded Age New England and delivers several well-earned and hard-to-predict plot twists. Fans of Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels will find plenty to enjoy.