Murder At Bertram’s Bower
When two residents of Bertram’s Bower, a house for fallen women, are found violently murdered, shock reverberates amongst residents of the upscale communities of Boston’s Beacon Hill. Caroline Ames, an attractive thirtyish spinster, quickly steps in to investigate when she finds her friend Agatha Montgomery, the Bower’s proprietress, near nervous collapse and at risk of social disgrace.
This is Victorian Boston done à la Merchant Ivory, complete with horse-drawn carriages, detailed descriptions of elegant fashion, and the precise, almost formal language of Beacon Hill’s elite. The author evokes particularly well the wide disparity among the social classes, from the upper crust Ameses down to the reviled immigrant Irish. In all, the novel works better as historical social commentary than as a mystery, for the murderer may be rather obvious, but this doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable. Cynthia Peale is Nancy Zaroulis, author of several other novels of historical Massachusetts.