Second Street Station: A Mary Handley Mystery

Written by Lawrence H. Levy
Review by Joanne Dobson

At twelve years of age, Mary Handley discovers the strangled body of a Frenchman on a Long Island to New York passenger train. “She had never seen a dead body before… yet Mary behaved as if this experience were a common occurrence… she had no fear, no emotion, just a desire to find out what had transpired.” Immediately she connects the murder with a man she thinks of as Bowler Hat, who she’s seen exiting the victim’s compartment. But, of course the adults don’t believe her.

Jump ahead twelve years, and a still-fearless Mary Handley is once again involved with crime, having, for political reasons, been hired by the police to help find the murderer of a prominent Brooklynite, Charles Goodrich. Solving the case turns out to involve surprisingly nefarious historical figures such as Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla, but also the murderous Bowler Hat of Mary’s childhood.

I fully expected to enjoy this novel much more than I ended up being able to. The premise is so promising – the first female detective in Brooklyn. But I found that it read more like a treatment for a screenplay than like a fully developed novel. So very many characters were involved that, of necessity, most were shallow, and even the major characters lacked the emotional complexity that would allow the reader to identify closely with any of them.