Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets (Gilded Age Mystery)

Written by Rosemary Simpson
Review by J. Lynn Else

New York, 1889. Heiress Prudence McKenzie and ex-Pinkerton Geoffrey Hunter are hired by Claire Buchanan, who suspects her sister’s death wasn’t caused by childbirth. Believing the husband murdered her sister and the newborn baby, Claire asks the two agents to uncover the real cause of their deaths. More alarming, the widower is already remarried, and to a woman late in pregnancy. Can the duo discover the truth of Claire’s sister’s death before it’s too late for another woman?

The opening hook starts with one character folding a newspaper, followed by two other characters explaining their recent trip to Paris, where they met a potential client. The client subsequently walks in and tells them her suspicions, setting the plot in motion. There are many time period references in this opening chapter, but it’s not intriguing, and the narrative feels predictably formulaic. As the investigation moves forward, most evidence is revealed via info dumps. This is also true for character backstory. The plot is chock-full of clichés, particularly centering on a wealthy independent woman blazing a new trail, and her ex-Pinkerton partner. The agents come across as stiff and proper, with only tiny snippets of possible emotional undertones, making the dialogue interchangeable between them. There also aren’t many challenges that characters have to overcome. Enter a shop to “borrow” evidence? No problem. However, because of the multiple changing points of view, the book isn’t so much a mystery as it is a search for proof, which I didn’t find satisfying as a reader.

I really enjoy books with mystery, plucky female characters, and a strong historical setting. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t differentiate from similar books in its genre and is lacking in character intrigue and challenges, both professional and personal.