Death at the Paris Exposition

Written by Frances McNamara
Review by Ellen Keith

In McNamara’s first mystery featuring Emily Cabot, Emily investigated a death at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In Emily’s sixth outing, she’s at another world’s fair, the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. She’s Bertha Palmer’s social secretary, and Mrs. Palmer is serving as the only female commissioner from the United States to the exposition. Emily has brought her husband, three children, and their nursemaid along. She’s come a long way since 1893, when she and her husband, Dr. Stephen Chapman, were just friends.

Jewelry thefts and a murder put the Palmers’ son Honoré under suspicion. Mr. Palmer’s health suffers, and Mrs. Palmer is busy with the exposition. Emily wants to help her friends and employers and investigates, but her skills are tested in this foreign country. She doesn’t speak French and the police don’t welcome her inquiries as they do in Chicago.

As heady an experience the exposition was in 1893, Paris in 1900 is that tenfold. The House of Worth has a featured role. Artist Mary Cassatt provides refuge for Emily and her children, and even Edgar Degas makes an appearance. McNamara expertly captures the variety of Americans abroad, from Emily and her husband, who appreciate the experience, to the awful Johnstones from Nebraska and the vapid young women in their charge. Emily remains a strong character, albeit a little less interesting as Mrs. Palmer’s social secretary than she was in previous outings as a lecturer at the University of Chicago or working at Hull House. I’m sure the next installment will find her back in her element in Chicago.