A society reporter in 1895 Newport, Rhode Island, tries for a news byline by investigating the death of a medium.
Minutes after rejecting a proposal from handsome, wealthy Derrick Andrews for fear that his great fortune will dampen her drive to pursue a career of her own, Emmaline Cross (Murder at the Breakers, 2014) is summoned to palatial Marble House, where her cousin Consuelo is being kept a virtual prisoner by her mother. Alva Vanderbilt is beside herself because her daughter plans to throw over Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, ninth Duke of Marlborough, to marry Winthrop Rutherfurd, a New York gentleman of relatively modest means. To help persuade her daughter to make a better choice, Alva plans a séance with medium Eleanora Devereaux, to be attended by Alva’s suffragist friends Edwina and Roberta Spooner, Hope Stanford and Lady Amelia Beaumont. But before she can summon a single spirit, Eleanora is strangled with one of Lady Amelia’s scarves, and Consuelo disappears. Clara, a housemaid, is arrested for the murder, but Emma just knows she can’t be guilty, so she appeals to her alternate suitor, Detective Jesse Whyte. Meanwhile, she extracts a promise from her editor at the Newport Observer that if she solves the crime, he’ll make sure the print credit goes to Emma rather than her rival, Ed Billings. With the police stymied, Emma forges ahead on her own—or not quite on her own, since Derrick can’t bear to see her place herself in danger yet again without the help and guidance of a proper gentleman with proper muscles.
Although it packs a heavy dose of romance, Maxwell’s second entry has a creditable mystery, solved by a female detective who’s likable in spite of her formulaic grit and determination.