Murder at the Chateau sur Mer

Written by Alyssa Maxwell
Review by Ellen Keith

Murder at Chateau sur Mer is fifth in Alyssa Maxwell’s Newport series, which features poor Vanderbilt relation Emma Cross. Emma makes her living as a reporter for the Newport Observer, and in the summer of 1897, she’s covering a polo match for the paper when she witnesses a young woman, the kind who is “not our sort,” attempt to speak with Mrs. George Wetmore, wife of Senator Wetmore. She’s removed for trespassing but that is not the end of her as her dead body is discovered late that night at the Wetmore’s estate, Chateau sur Mer. Emma’s friend, Detective Jesse Whyte, brings her to the crime scene as Mrs. Wetmore has asked for her, thinking that Emma, with her family connections and investigative skills, can provide more discreet inquiries than the police as to why this unfortunate woman was found on their property.

This is no straightforward investigation. Emma faces both physical threats and more subtle intimidation by those with money and power. Class distinction wasn’t confined to European countries; it was alive and well in Newport society in the Gilded Age. Although this could be viewed as a cozy mystery, Maxwell makes it clear how challenging it was to be a woman in this world, even if you are related to the Vanderbilts. Emma navigates between society people and dockworkers and prostitutes with aplomb and those who are the most threatened by her investigations are the men of privilege. “She persisted” is a good tag line for Emma. Maxwell has me hooked. I’m off to look up the first four in the series and eagerly await the sixth.