SARAH COBB by Catherine M. Rae


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In this gentlewoman's novel of mild suspense, Rae again exhumes the upper-class Manhattan of yore--with a tale of murder and mystery as in her Brownstone Facade (1987) and love and loss as in Julia's Story (1989). Millie Cobb tells her story from the beginning--her life with nasty sister, the fierce Agatha, after brother Henry inherited the family's money in 1886. It's at the Metropolitan Museum that Millie will meet handsome lawyer John Townsend. They love; the wedding day is set; and, the night before John dies (of an accident), Millie conceives their son. Childless brother Henry then puts forth a horrible but necessary solution: he and wife Maria will raise the out-of-wedlock baby as their own, but no one is ever to know its parentage. So ""William"" becomes Henry's son and heir. Maria will die, and one young Sarah will be gently pushed into marrying Henry by her beloved father (who has been not so gently pushed, via blackmail, himself by Henry). Now, Sarah's narrative takes over, and before the catastrophes, she presents a cheerful view of a not unhappy marriage, of pleasures, such as the exciting world of the arts (she'll meet Mabel Dodge and attend the Armory show), and of cozy dome, stica. But one fateful snowy evening, with the Cobb sisters visiting Henry, Sarah, and two aged relatives, there's a murder--leading to prison for Sarah, then release and a passionate new love, and a sleuthing. One Cobb sister dies screaming; another after a peaceful confession and an accelerating mental illness--or was it? Rae seems to have settled, with increasing confidence, into the small, tidy niche of the decorously toned, period suspense-tale of old-Gotham rumbling from skeleton-filled closets.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's