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Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson
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Jul 29, 11

Victoria Thompson
Murder on Astor Place (1999) introduces Sarah Brandt, a young widow estranged from her wealthy family and working as a midwife. While trying to visit one of her patients, Sarah discovers that a young boarder at the rooming house has been murdered. Sergeant Frank Malloy, annoyed by her persistence, asks Sarah to help examine the young woman’s clothing for clues to her identity. Sarah discovers a medical implement used by abortionists as well as the girl’s name, Alicia VanDamm, embroidered inside a garment. It’s 1895, and Teddy Roosevelt has recently been appointed president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners, tasked with reforming the most corrupt police force in the country. Knowing that the police won’t investigate the murder without a reward, Sarah visits the VanDamms to encourage them to post one, and is surprised that neither the father nor Alicia’s older sister Mina show any signs of grief, though they are concerned about the missing jewelry Alicia took when she ran away from home. Convinced that no one else cares, Sarah decides to bring Alicia’s killer to justice herself, and begins asking questions and reporting her findings to Malloy, who reluctantly begins his own investigation. Then Cornelius VanDamm, concerned about protecting the family reputation, demands that the investigation be closed and Malloy is taken off the case. By this time Malloy is hooked, and joins forces with Sarah to uncover the truth, swayed by her insistence that Roosevelt will reward honest policemen. The plight of women and the poor in turn-of-the-20th-century New York City is presented with sensitivity in this absorbing debut historical mystery.
Victoria Thompson page at SYKM

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