Fanny Newcombe and the Irish Channel Ripper
Fanny Newcombe has come to New Orleans in 1889 to teach business courses at Wisdom Hall Settlement House. She has been hired by sisters Olive and Sylvia Giddings, daughters of a wealthy family, who have recently established Wisdom Hall to provide medical care and education to poor immigrants arriving in New Orleans. Olive and Sylvia hope that it will eventually become “a glorious edifice of immigrant education.”
Fanny is happy to be earning a living, even though using a new-fangled typewriter is proving to be harder than she had expected. She enjoys teaching the young women who mostly come from the Irish Channel (here politely described as ‘roguish’) until one of her students is murdered.
The murdered woman, Nora, came from Ireland and became a prostitute in New Orleans. She had been one of Fanny’s most promising students, and Fanny had hoped for her to move along to a useful career. The man accused of her killing is Karl, a skilled carpenter from Germany who is helping to build Wisdom Hall to the impressive standards demanded by the sisters. Fanny, shocked by the killing and unable to believe Karl capable of such brutal behavior, decides to prove his innocence.
Ana Brazil takes the reader for a clear-sighted visit to the seamier side of Gilded Age New Orleans. Fanny and the Giddings sisters visit brothels and pornography studios in their search for the killer, aware of police corruption and mixed messages coming from the Church. The author leaves us with no illusions about the uglier side of New Orleans at the time.
This book is a promising start from a new author, who has introduced many engaging characters together with an incisive picture of the sordid lives of some of New Orleans’ immigrants.