Opulence and Ashes (A Gilded Gotham Mystery)

Written by Kate Belli
Review by Marlie Wasserman

In the fourth book in her Gilded Gotham Mystery series, Kate Belli resumes the story of journalist Genevieve Stewart, well-ensconced into New York society, and her fiancé, Daniel McCaffrey, newly arrived into the same social set.

Genevieve and Daniel learn about a fire at a mission for needy women, then find themselves connected to a fire in a photographer’s studio, and eventually to two other mysterious fires. While the betrothed couple look into the causes of those disasters, they deal as well with their impending wedding, their efforts to improve the lot of the poor, the changing organization of gangs in the city, and the unexpected arrival of Daniel’s long-missing brother, who witnesses several of the fires. When Genevieve goes missing, Daniel and a force of friends he has assembled hunt for her in almost every corner of New York. Readers may suspect that Genevieve will turn up eventually, but the details of her misadventures are dramatic and unpredictable.

An extremely accomplished author of historical fiction, Belli masters pacing, characterization, setting, and plot. From the opening pages, readers will care about the emotional states of the appealing couple. As Daniel and Genevieve roam or run between genteel and squalid neighborhoods, New York City in 1890 comes to life. Although Belli hints at aspects of the couple’s back stories, stories she has covered in previous books, readers can read this novel as a stand-alone. Highly recommended.