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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mary Handley Puts Out the Fires in Brooklyn On Fire

Brooklyn on Fire (Mary Handley Mystery #2)Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

The year is 1890 and we find Mary Handley, a year and a half removed from her solving of a highly publicized murder case, sitting in her new office in the rear of Lazlo's Books, reading the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The news most prominently heralded is about the local baseball team, The Brooklyn Bridegrooms and the recent decision that a player is bound to the team on which heM plays. Mary is quite dismayed at the lack of news that a woman for the first time has been added to a President's staff. But, she is not surprised that a woman's achievement should be so overlooked. Mary herself has not been involved with the Brooklyn Police Department in any further investigations. Nevertheless, Mr. Lazlo has hired her to work in his store, thinking that her notoriety will bring in more customers. To this end he has provided her with a small office from which to work and her friend, Sarah, has given her the gift of business cards on which she is identified as a Consulting Detective, as Sherlock Holmes has described himself.

Mary does not know that an old reclusive woman has been brutally strangled and left in her messy apartment, filled with years of newspapers and other odds and ends. Within a few pages the reader is introduced to the murderer and several very prominent New Yorkers, including Collis Huntington and his wife, Arrabella. These and many other real life characters will soon involve Mary in several murders and their solutions. The first involvement occurs when a woman, purported to be from Richmond, Virginia arrives in Mary's office and hires her to determine the cause of death of her uncle, John Worsham. She is sure he was murdered and she wants to find out if that is so and also who was responsible for the murder. There are a few problems with the investigation--the victim has been dead for 25 years and his widow is none other than the present Mrs. Huntington, Arrabella.
Thus begins Mary's first case which takes her into the homes of several very prominent people and some less wholesome but still very influential and powerful people. As the tale progresses, the death of the recluse becomes important and Mary's brother Sean's investigation into it manages to get him arrested for the murder of his fiancé and Mary's best friend, Patti Cassiday.
The manipulations of the political boss of Brooklyn and Brooklyn's mayor also serve to muddy the waters as the politicians of New York attempt to consolidate the two cities. As more murders occur, Mary comes to believe that they are the result of her sleuthing and that she and her family have been made targets by whomever is arranging for them.
As another thread, Mary meets and becomes engaged to George Vanderbilt and finds herself exposed to some of the luxuries of great wealth. This is rather disconcerting to the daughter of an Irish immigrant butcher and she worries at her easy acceptance of them.
In the end, Mary with the help of her mentor, Captain Campbell, now the Superintendent of Police, manages to find all the pieces and put them together to solve the murders, and get Sean out of prison.

In all the excitement Lazlo's Books is burnt to the ground, but thanks to Lazlo's love of all things Benjamin Franklin, he had the building insured. As the story ends, Mary has been given space for gilt letters on the new front window, advertising the presence of her new much larger and more nicely appointed office. As we leave her, she is greeting not one but three new clients, who I am sure will provide us with more Mary Handley adventures to come.

I obtained this copy of Brooklyn on Fire from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

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