A judge’s daughter–turned-detective and her reluctant partner seek an American Jack the Ripper.
For the lucky few in the upper tiers of New York society, living the good life 23 years after the end of the Civil War, it’s truly the Gilded Age. But Prudence MacKenzie sees a side of the city that most well-bred young women don’t. She’s recovering from the deaths of her father, with whom she read law, and her fiance as well as from an addiction to the laudanum forced on her by a scheming stepmother. Though physically fragile, she won’t let ex–Pinkerton detective Geoffrey Hunter, the other half of Hunter and MacKenzie, Investigative Law, play the Southern gentleman and shield her from the sight of her servant Nora Kenny lying dead in the morgue with a slit throat and carefully removed entrails. Once a childhood playmate of Prudence’s, Nora was found, tightly wrapped in burlap, just outside the MacKenzie town house on Fifth Avenue. Despite the efforts of the corrupt police chief to arrest Nora’s fiance and make him disappear inside the Tombs, Prudence and Geoffrey won’t let the case rest. A second and third murder prove that a Ripper copycat is on the loose. In alliance with a devoted clerk, a former city detective, a saloon owner with a long reach, the madam of a brothel, and a vagrant and his faithful dog (which appears to understand whole sentences in English), Prudence and Geoffrey find a common element in all three deaths: the church of St. Anselm’s. Prudence’s determination to get justice for Nora and the other victims brings her up against a wealthy scion with a strange fetish, a priest too handsome for his own good, and a mysterious monsignor in a danger-fraught and twist-ridden adventure.
Simpson (What the Dead Leave Behind, 2017) further develops an admirable heroine who refuses to take refuge in the vapors but doesn’t see that she’s met a match in her partner—though neither does he.