During the Gilded Age, the wealthy could, and did, get away with murder.
It's 1894. The rich, Southern Crawford family wants New York City attorney Jeremiah Prescott to look into the disappearance of their housekeeper’s niece since the corrupt New York police are not interested in looking for a young black girl. Prescott’s operatives, former NYPD detective Harry Miller and lovely widow Pamela Thompson, are skilled, in their different ways, in obtaining information. Many clues point to the involvement of Capt. Jed Crake, a decorated Union Army veteran whose bad reputation with women includes at least one rape during the Civil War. Crake, a crude man who’s made a fortune in meatpacking, is in ill health. His wife is a much younger former prostitute with a lover of her own. While Pamela and Harry are pursuing their investigations, the Crakes repair for the summer to the Grand Hotel in Saratoga Springs, playground of the rich and famous. Soon after, Crake is found murdered, and a young chambermaid who’s a friend of Pamela’s is arrested for the crime. The sleuths soon determine that a number of people had reason to kill Crake: his wife, her lover, and several members of the Crawford family, whose hatred of him dates back to the war. As they circulate among the varied denizens of the beautiful summer playground, more and more information comes to light. But will it be enough to reveal the truth?
This leisurely second effort in O’Brien’s new series (Death of a Robber Baron, 2013, etc.) is short on both ingenuity and psychological tension; it's evidently aimed at history buffs and daydreamers rather than armchair sleuths.