Mary Handley Is A Delightful Sleuth in The Second Street Station
We first meet Mary as a precocious 12 year old wandering the darkened corridor of a train heading from the end of Long Island to Brooklyn. She sees a man in a bowler hat leaving the compartment of a man, who moments before had shooed her away from his open door when she'd lingered in curiosity as he fiddled with a curious device like none she'd seen before. Now, as Bowler Hat pauses momentarily to size her up, she again peers into the compartment only to see its occupant is now hanging suspended and quite dead. Bowler Hat expects screaming and hysteria but Mary calmly seeks help from a conductor as she also observes the compartment and its lack of the device. She disagrees with the verdict of suicide but who listens to a child?
We next meet Mary about ten years later. Her brother, on whom her mother depended to make a name for himself, is a policeman--a bit of a disappointment. Mary? Well, she is still precocious, works in a sweatshop and has not found herself a suitable man to marry--just what her mother, Elizabeth expected. She's a disappointment but then she has always been in her mother's eyes. Getting fired from the sweatshop does nothing to change her mother's assessment and she is not adverse to vocalizing her dismay.
At this point, the fiancé of another girl living in the tenement with Mary is found dead. His death, too, is determined a suicide but once more Mary worms her way into the scene and pronounces the death a murder. She is shuffled off despite the coroner's determination that she is correct. However, Mary can be a tool for a couple of police Commissioners in Brooklyn--she can be hired by the police to investigate the case. When she fails to find the murderer, and of course, she will fail--the women who have been picketing and clamoring for women police of the force will be silenced and the Police Chief who hires Mary will be disgraced and removed.
And so the story takes off. Mary ranges throughout the City and into New Jersey following leads. The victim had worked for Thomas Edison as an accountant--the road starts there--before long it takes in many prominent people, among them JP Morgan, Tesla, George Westinghouse among others. Lawrence Levy has incorporated much of the history of the late 19th century development of the use of electricity. This thread is woven very well into the recounting of the actual Mary Handley who did investigate a murder much like the one described. Many of the other characters are also people who actually lived and were truly a part of the story.
The description of Brooklyn when it was still a town apart from New York City is interesting as is the various areas Mary is lead into across the famous bridge that at this time is a wonder only five years old. It is amazing as is the description of the casual use of cocaine in wine and, most famously, Coca Cola, although that particular beverage is still not in widespread use.
All in all, an engrossing, entertaining who done it--with the added surprise of who actually did! Looking forward to Mary's next adventures.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.