The White Crow
The belief in spiritualism has found a ready audience amongst the upper echelons of society in late nineteenth century Boston. Having lost her mother several years prior, Caroline Ames, an attractive spinster of thirty-six, is hardly immune. At a séance conducted by Evangeline Sidgwick, the “best medium in Boston,” the elderly gentleman at Caroline’s left makes contact with his late wife–but when the lights come on, he has passed on to the next world. Regrettably for Caroline’s reputation, the cause of death is discovered not to be shock, but cold-blooded murder, and the medium’s next message reveals that an Ames may be the next victim.
Peale’s Beacon Hill Mystery series, of which this is the third volume, keeps improving over time. The author has an excellent sense of time and place, particularly when it comes to evoking the atmosphere of a Boston that existed just over a hundred years ago. She does not neglect character development, either; in particular, readers are allowed greater insight into Caroline’s brother, the enigmatic Addington Ames, whose infatuation with the gorgeous, socially unacceptable actress Serena Vincent is finally allowed to run its course. The Ames siblings’ squabbling over that intrusive new invention, the telephone, is picturesque and delightful. Out of the flood of historical mysteries currently on the market, this is surely one of the best.