A midwife’s latest delivery involves her in murder.
Despite being the daughter of a wealthy and socially prominent New York family, widowed Sarah Brandt continues to work as a midwife. Called out to deliver a baby, she does not immediately realize that Amy, the lovely and spoiled young woman about to give birth, is a prostitute. When Sarah, who has finally realized where she is working, returns to check on the baby boy, Amy begs her to contact Mrs. Van Orner, a wealthy woman who devotes herself to rescuing prostitutes. Impressed by Mrs. Van Orner’s charitable work, Sarah helps Amy escape to a safe house. Amy turns out to be a demanding and calculating young woman who hints that her son was fathered by Mrs. Van Orner’s husband. When Mrs. Van Orner is found dead in her carriage after leaving the safe house, Sarah’s friend, Detective Frank Malloy, gets the case. In turn-of-the-century New York, the police are so completely controlled by the powers that be that Malloy can investigate only if Van Orner asks for an investigation. Coaxed by Mrs. Van Orner’s secretary, Miss Yingling, however, Van Orner agrees. The only suspects in his wife’s laudanum poisoning are members of his own household and the women who live or work at the safe house. Sarah has her work cut out for her in helping Malloy solve the disagreeable and dangerous case.
Thompson’s enjoyable historical series (Murder on Lexington Avenue, 2010, etc.) continues to highlight the social injustices of the time, some of which continue to this day.