The rebellious daughter of a wealthy family joins an Irish cop to investigate murder at a séance.
Widowed Sarah Brandt (Murder on Bank Street, 2008, etc.) has spurned life as a socialite in favor of serving as a midwife to the poor. When her mother, Mrs. Decker, asks Sarah to accompany her to a séance, the skeptical young woman goes along to protect her mother’s interests. Years earlier, Sarah’s sister Maggie had run off with an unsuitable young man; later she and her child died in childbirth. Now Mrs. Decker, led by a friend who’s already attending the sessions where beautiful young medium Madame Serafina holds audiences in thrall, hopes to speak with Maggie and ask forgiveness. Sarah thinks her mother’s unsatisfactory initial experience is quite enough. So when there’s a murder at another séance, and Sarah’s friend Det. Sgt. Malloy calls Sarah to the scene, she’s amazed to find her mother among the participants. The two sleuths quickly learn that the murdered woman was running duplicitous séances with help from a shady professor who joined her in fleecing wealthy participants. Because police have little authority over the rich in 1890s New York, Malloy and Sarah must proceed with caution. Serafina’s lover, a young Italian boy, seems to be the guilty party, but no crime committed in the pitch-dark is easy to solve.
Though sometimes melodramatic, Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery series provides a fascinating window into a bygone era.