New York circa 1865, a city of baronial mansions and wretched hovels, plays home to a sleuthing Irish cook.
Bridget Heaney considers herself fortunate to be starting a new job as assistant cook for a wealthy Sephardic family—that is, until she finds their missing son Seth dead in the breadbox. Department store owner Isaac Gold is unsuccessfully consoled by his son Benjamin and his wife, his daughter Rose and their snooty stepmother, along with a racially diverse group of servants for whose welfare Isaac is uncommonly concerned. Desolated by Seth’s murder, he enlists Bridget’s aid in combing the Irish ghetto to find Seth’s lover Katherine, who soon becomes the next victim. But Bridget finds a secret drawer in Katherine’s spice box crammed with recipes in many languages and a clue that leads her through newspapers, whorehouses, Irish bars, German boardinghouses, the stock exchange, an insane asylum and Gold’s store in her pursuit of the murderer and of her own missing sister Maggie. Nimble-witted and well aware of the city’s depravity, Bridget finds that life is cheap in this turbulent era, but her dogged optimism will overcome all odds.
Temple (Death is Semisweet, 2002, etc.) further brightens her dark landscape with a mélange of recipes, cooking hints and tidbits of Manhattan history.