Murder on Astor Place (Gaslight Mystery #1)

by Victoria Thompson

I understand the bad reviews for this one amongst many who enjoy cozy mysteries. The author pulls somewhat of a bait and switch on the reader. It starts out with the trappings of a cozy: likable female amateur crime solver aided by a man; little or no onscreen violence, the hint of romance and promise of a relationship, and neighborhood-based. Most of all, the voice of the author is light and breezy despite the grim happenings. The tone is very discordant and encourages the reader to persevere through the urban poverty, sad, hopeless lives, and brutal (off-screen) murders. But then only to be confronted with the horrifying reveal at the end. This book bears a lot of resemblances to Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. A lot. Because I’ve been reading Anne Perry’s dark and dense mysteries for over 2 decades, I saw the squalid key to the puzzle coming very early in the book. Also, there was a big clue. Thompson did throw in a few extra wrinkles at the end, which were a little over the top.

I liked the heroine and enjoyed the historical setting, driven to Wikipedia, as I was, to see how successful Teddy Roosevelt was in cleaning up the sickening corruption of the New York Police Department. Not Very. The male protagonist was a major problem for me in this book, as he was just as corrupt as his colleagues and seemingly not too bothered by it. In fact, he resented Teddy’s efforts. Frank Malloy is no Thomas Pitt. Despite my problems with some of the aspects of this first book, I am going to give the series another try because, reading a few random reviews and previews ahead, I like the arc the series will be taking. There was a lot of ground laid in this first book for many interesting and promising journeys ahead. Also, I noted that this first book’s reviews were not as strong as the follow-ups, and MS Thompson has won or been nominated for a few prestigious awards.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

September 19, 2017

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