What the Dead Leave Behind
A massive, unexpected March snowstorm overwhelms New York City while Prudence MacKenzie desperately awaits the arrival of her fiancé. His sudden death in this 1888 blizzard nullifies the plans that her recently deceased father, a prominent judge, had meticulously laid to ensure her future security and places Prudence under the thumb of her father’s hostile second wife. Initially hindered by a haze of grief and dangerous medication that has kept her docile and vulnerable, she struggles to extricate herself from the situation. Her quest to regain her rightful inheritance and freedom soon includes investigating the strange accident that killed her fiancé, and she enlists the help of his loyal friend, who shares her suspicions.
Relying on lessons her father taught her about the law and how to outmaneuver an adversary, Prudence covertly defies her stepmother’s attempt to control her and concentrates on finding and interpreting a set of abstruse clues the judge left behind. She makes significant progress in sorting through the past misdeeds, deceit, and machinations that have led to her plight, yet she is unaware of the present danger posed by a vengeful foe lurking in plain sight.
This intricate mystery unfolds by exposing layer after layer of hidden facts and surprising connections between the worlds of the Fifth Avenue elite, their servants, and the criminal denizens of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The varied characters are well-drawn, with the protagonist’s mix of emotional depth, canniness, and courage fueling the story. A rich prose style and sweeping glimpse of life during New York’s Gilded Age complement the intriguing plot.