Murder In Little Italy

Written by Victoria Thompson
Review by Nina de Angeli

In the turbulent immigrant neighborhoods of late 1890s New York, Tammany Hall ward heelers juggle political power while other ethnic groups protect their own and work for a piece of the action. When midwife Sarah Brandt answers a birthing call from an engaging family of Italian-American restaurant owners in her latest outing as amateur sleuth, the new baby, of mixed Irish-Italian heritage, comes with a dark secret. To Brandt’s horror, the baby’s Irish-American mother is murdered soon after giving birth. The two grandmothers, Irish and Italian, fight over the baby. Soon underlying ethnic tensions erupt into a riot between the Italian Black Hand and Tammany’s thugs. Brandt’s friend, NYPD detective Malloy, must tread carefully to protect the family and find the killer, hampered by politicians threatening to interfere with his reforming boss, Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

Thompson’s fast-moving style and solid research in 1890s New York life makes this a consistently satisfying series.