Murder in Chinatown: A Gaslight Mystery

Written by Victoria Thompson
Review by Nina de Angeli

The murder of a lovely young Chinese-Irish-American girl from an affluent Chinatown family, shortly after her elopement with a handsome Irish-American youth from the slums, inflames ethnic hatreds. Both the Chinese and the Irish families are furious about the marriage. Could the murderer be a blood relative? Set in late 1890s New York City, the tangled family relationships in this case shed light on cruel anti-Chinese immigration laws that allowed only Chinese men to enter the U.S. in the hope that Chinese workers would not settle down as Americans but return to China.

NYPD Detective Malloy and his friend, midwife Sarah Brandt, struggle to help both families and solve the murder. The author gives sanitized glimpses of brutal police methods used at the time, as the relatively ethical detective resists taking bribes and tries to deal evenhandedly with families of all classes and ethnicities. After a slow start, the police work eventually pays off. As usual in this series, solid research in 1890s ethnic and family life creates a satisfying context for the mystery plot. Ninth in series.