I love this vibrant, lively, insanely readable series, a series that takes unexpected turns with its characters but still hews to the traditional norms of historical mystery fiction. The first book in the series, A Death of No Importance, was a fabulous origin story, where ladies’ maid Jane Prescott takes on the nouveau riche Benchley family in the first decade of the twentieth century. The books are set in New York City and the Benchley girls are viewed as rich upstarts, and Jane’s special charge, Louise, is shy and gauche and seems to fit in nowhere.
I remember when Rhys Bowen started writing her Molly Murphy series. I inhaled them the second they were published. I loved (and still do) the mix of the feisty Molly, her journey of discovery as a new immigrant, the clever mysteries, and the turn of the century settings. Rhys Bowen has the gift of narrative. I am so happy to tell you – because I want to make you a fellow fan – that Mariah Fredericks has that very same gift.
I have so far inhaled all three of her books featuring ladies’ maid Jane Prescott, who works for the wealthy Mrs. Louise Tyler around the 1910’s. She has a way with a story, and a way of getting you to care about and be invested in her characters. In this novel Jane is on “vacation”, so she goes home. Home for Jane is a refuge for fallen women, run by her uncle, a Presbyterian pastor. He takes women who come from the streets and gives them a place to live, something to eat, and a little hope for the future and a different way of earning a living.
I was knocked out by Mariah Frederick’s first novel, A Death of No Importance, and wasn’t sure how her book about a maid in a wealthy American household slightly after the turn of the century could be translated into a series, but it seems it surely can be. Jane Prescott, a woman of her time in some ways, is grieving over the recent loss of the Titanic like everyone else, but unlike everyone else, she’s shepherding her charge, Miss Louise Benchley, through the trials and tribulations of a giant society wedding.