A fifth sort-of case for Brooklyn historian Dr. Erica Donato shows her teaming up with an aging local activist against rapacious Jehovah’s Witnesses. Uh-huh.
Louisa McWilliams Gibbs isn’t called the duchess of Brooklyn Heights for nothing. In her time, she’s marched, she’s demonstrated, she’s organized, she’s importuned City Hall, she’s done everything humanly possible to help her beloved borough retain the best of its distinctive character in the face of wishy-washy government bureaucrats, bean-counting civil servants, and slick real estate speculators out to make a quick buck. Now that she’s too old for most of those activities—she has a hard time even getting up and down the stairs without the assistance of Sierra, her hipster aide—trouble has ironically come right to her doorstep in the person of Daniel Towns, a Watchtower bigwig intent on selling a parcel of properties the Witnesses own to mega-developer Mike Prinzig, of Prince Projects. Since Louisa’s home adjoins one of the Witnesses’ buildings, Towns wants to broker the sale of her home to Prince Projects too. When Louisa bridles and stiffens her spine, two activities she’s very good at, someone begins harassing her with a series of anonymous letters she reluctantly describes to Erica and a pair of NYPD officers. The report falls flat once Louisa and Erica realize that Towns has been getting anonymous letters too, and even flatter when Towns is found dead inside one of the well-kept underground tunnels connecting the buildings. In the experienced hands of Erica (Brooklyn Wars, 2017, etc.), however, the promising mystery runs down rather than winding up. And despite restoration expert Nancy Long’s tale of woe, there’s precious little in the way of disclosures about the Witnesses either. It’s hard not to sympathize with the cop who tells Erica, calling to report on the latest anticlimactic developments: “I have real crimes to handle here.”
A modern Battle of Brooklyn Heights for fans of borough history only.