A Golden Cage: A Newport Gilded Age Mystery

Written by Shelley Freydont
Review by Jane Kessler

This is the second in an historical mystery series set in Newport, Rhode Island during the Gilded Age and featuring Deanna Randolph, a young heiress.

Deanna is not a typical young lady of the Gilded Age. A great reader of female detective stories, she chafes at the limitations placed on her by polite society and her mother. Fortunately for Deanna, her mother is away in Switzerland and Deanna has been left in the care of the Ballard family. She had almost become engaged to young Joe Ballard the previous year. Joe’s mother and grandmother allow Deanna more freedom than her mother. She uses the opportunity to join a bicycling club, wear less restrictive clothing, and to continue reading detective stories.

One evening, Deanna and the Ballards attend a lavish birthday party for a neighbor, a judge. The judge’s family has erected an outdoor theatre and brought in an acting troupe to put on a play during the party. After the performance, the group stops to see one of the members of the acting troupe, the daughter of Joe’s mother’s friend. The young woman has run away from home to be an actress and her family is scandalized and concerned. The next day, an actor from the play is found dead on the floor of the Ballards’ conservatory and the young lady they visited has disappeared. Deanna feels compelled to investigate, with help from her maid and Joe.

This series would be best read in order. I was curious about what had transpired between Joe and Deanna in the first book, which hindered my enjoyment of the story somewhat. The solution to the murder seemed obvious to me, but I enjoyed the descriptions of life for the rich and the not-so-rich in the Gilded Age.