Murder in Rose Hill

Victoria Thompson

Book - 2024

"Midwife Sarah Malloy and her private investigator husband, Frank, must shine a light on the truth and catch the fiend who killed a young reporter in this new entry in the USA Today bestselling Gaslight Mystery series. Louisa Rodgers is working as a magazine reporter and is hoping midwife Sarah Malloy can help her. New Century Magazine, like Colliers and McClure's, is branching out into investigative articles on pressing social issues. Louisa explains that she is researching the dangers of patent medicines. She had been walking through the neighborhood in search of people addicted to such nostrums to interview when she saw the sign for the clinic. Sarah is only too happy to tell Louisa exactly what she thinks of the so-called medi...cines that hurt much more than they help. A few days later, Sarah receives a visit from a man who introduces himself as Louisa's father. Bernard Rodgers explains that Louisa has been found strangled in the lobby of the building where New Century has its offices. The police have decided it was a random attack and have made no attempt to investigate, hinting that Louisa got what she deserved for sticking her nose where it didn't belong. Her family found Sarah's card among Louisa's effects, and now it is up to Sarah and Frank to catch a cold-blooded murderer"--

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MYSTERY/Thompson Victoria
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Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor New Shelf MYSTERY/Thompson Victoria (NEW SHELF) Due Aug 2, 2024
Historical fiction
Detective and mystery fiction
New York : Berkley Prime Crime 2024.
Main Author
Victoria Thompson (author)
Physical Description
327 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An early-20th-century New York midwife puts aside her birthing responsibilities to solve yet another murder. Socialite Sarah Brandt Malloy and her husband, Frank--who inherited enough money to quit the corrupt police department and open a detective agency--have solved many mysteries. Sarah, who likes to keep a hand in at a clinic she's funded where even the poorest women can get care, has just delivered a baby when Louisa Rodgers, a magazine reporter for the New Century, arrives asking for her help in exposing the dangers of patent medicines. Many of them are addictive--not a surprise when most of them have a high alcohol content or contain drugs like opium to make their users feel better. When Louisa's father shows up a few days later with the news that his daughter has been murdered, he tells Sarah that his daughter was a secretary at the magazine, not a reporter. Since the police think she was a randomly chosen victim, Sarah explains to Louisa's distraught father that hiring Frank may be the only way to find the killer. Frank learns a good deal from his interviews at the New Century and a good deal more from his secretary, Maeve Smith, when he sends her to work there undercover. Maeve joins Frank's partner, Gino Donatelli, to take on the people at the boardinghouse where Louisa lived. With suspects ranging from the owner of a local patent medicine factory to Louisa's family members, it will be no easy task to uncover the real motive for her death. The talented sleuths once again solve a difficult case enhanced by social commentary and historic detail. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

I It's a girl!" Sarah Brandt Malloy held up the squalling infant she had just delivered so the mother could see it. "Poor mite," the woman said wearily, raising her head from the pillows to see better. "I was hoping for a boy. They have an easier time of it in this world." Sarah couldn't argue with that. Males had a lot of advantages, and when you started your life as the illegitimate child of a penniless mother, as this baby was, those advantages helped. "I know you'll do your best for her, Mary," Sarah said. Mary sank back on the pillows and sighed. "I already been doing my best, and if it wasn't for this clinic, I'd have birthed her in an alley." Which was why Sarah had founded the clinic in the first place, to give women like Mary a safe place to have their babies. "Don't lose heart," she said, handing the baby to Miss Kirkwood, one of the other midwives employed at the clinic. "You can stay here until you recover and then we'll help you find a job." Mary didn't reply, but Sarah didn't notice because she was busy massaging Mary's stomach to encourage the delivery of the afterbirth. Miss Kirkwood had cleaned up the baby and wrapped her in a fresh blanket, but when she tried to hand the child to the mother, Mary turned her head away. "Don't. I'm not going to keep her. I can't." "You don't have to decide right now," Sarah said as gently as she could. "As I said, you can stay here until you have your strength back. Then you can decide." But Mary shook her head. "I already decided. It's best for her. I don't want her growing up in the streets like I did." Growing up in an orphanage wouldn't be much better for the child, but Sarah knew better than to argue with a woman whose emotions were still running wild from childbirth. "At least nurse her a little," Sarah urged. "It's for your own good. You'll recover faster if you do." Miss Kirkwood offered the baby again and this time Mary took the tiny bundle, even though she was obviously reluctant. "I don't know what to do," Mary complained. Miss Kirkwood showed her how to put the baby to her breast, and soon the child was suckling happily. "She don't have much hair," Mary observed after a few moments. "It will grow," Miss Kirkwood said, brushing her fingertips over the baby's downy head. "It looks like it will be blond, like yours." Mary didn't exactly smile but her frown relaxed a bit. Sarah said a little prayer that Mary would fall in love with her baby, as most mothers did no matter what their circumstances. But if she didn't, Sarah would do everything she could to give both Mary and her baby a chance in life. When Mary and the baby were both cleaned up and comfortable, Sarah bundled up the soiled towels and sheets and was getting ready to leave the new mother and her child to rest when someone knocked on the bedroom door. It was one of the other women who were currently staying at the clinic. This woman had given birth a few weeks ago and would soon leave. "Mrs. Malloy, there's a lady here, and she asked to see you in particular." That was odd. Prospective patients didn't usually ask for Sarah since she came to the clinic only occasionally. She had been lucky today to find one of the residents was in labor, so she got to help with a delivery. She had once made her living as a midwife, but rarely had a chance to make a delivery anymore now that she was a rich matron able to sponsor charities. "She asked for me by name?" Sarah said to clarify. "Not by name, but she wanted to speak to the lady in charge, and I thought she must mean you." Sarah smiled and thanked her. "I'll take care of those," Miss Kirkwood said, taking the bundle of dirty linens from her. Sarah made her way downstairs and found a young woman waiting in the parlor of the large house she had purchased and remodeled into the clinic. The parlor was now a waiting room of sorts with comfortable chairs for the neighborhood women who had a home in which to deliver but who still came to the clinic for prenatal care. "May I help you?" The woman rose. She was probably in her late twenties with ash brown hair and chocolate-colored eyes. She wore a dark skirt and jacket with a white shirtwaist, what had come to be a sort of uniform for women who held paying jobs, and a rather sensible hat. She didn't look like the type of woman who needed the services of a charity clinic. "Are you Mrs. Malloy?" "Yes." "The lady who answered the door said you founded this clinic," the woman said. "I started it, yes. I was a midwife myself, so I knew there was a need for it. Are you looking for a place for yourself?" The young woman was slender as a reed, but she might still be expecting. She smiled at that. "Oh no, not at all. I didn't even want to talk to you about that. It's something else, something to do with women's health, though, so I thought perhaps you might be able to help me." Sarah had to admit this was intriguing, so she invited the young woman to sit down and asked one of the expectant mothers who had gathered in the hallway to eavesdrop on their visitor if she would fetch them something cool to drink. While they waited, the young woman said, "I am Louisa Rodgers. I'm a reporter for the New Century magazine." "I see," Sarah said. This was quite impressive since not many reporters were female. "Are you writing an article about women's health? That's what you said, isn't it?" "Yes, well, I'm writing about something that affects women's health: patent medicines." Sarah couldn't help wincing. "If you're looking for some sort of endorsement, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place." Advertisements for these medicines often featured recommendations from various medical professionals even though the preparations seldom contained anything that actually cured or even treated diseases. "Oh no, Mrs. Malloy. I'm . . . well, just the opposite, in fact. I want to write an article about how dangerous these potions can be." Sarah needed a moment to absorb this. "And your magazine has assigned you to do this?" "Well, yes," Miss Rodgers said almost defensively. "I hope you don't think that just because I'm a female that-" "No, no, nothing like that," Sarah hastily assured her. "I would be the last person to think that. I'm just surprised that a magazine would want to publish something unflattering about these nostrums. Don't magazines usually avoid controversial subjects?" Miss Rodgers lifted her chin in a show of defiance. She wasn't a beautiful girl, but her confidence and determination made her quite striking. She actually looked as if she relished taking on this monumental task. "The New Century wants to make a name for itself as a progressive publication. We want our readers to know they can trust us to tell them the truth and will always be concerned with their well-being." That was a noble cause, but Sarah had rarely seen any commercial enterprise succeed at it. "I must say, I'm glad they have given this assignment to a woman." Miss Rodgers shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Yes, it is an honor, but I must do an excellent job at it or . . ." She didn't need to explain. If a woman was entrusted with an important job and failed at it, that would make it all the harder for the next woman to be trusted. "Why have you come to me and how can I help?" Miss Rodgers smiled. "I was in the neighborhood talking to women and trying to find some who regularly use patent medicines. I wanted to know if any of them had been cured or even helped in any way." "And did you find any?" "No one who had actually been cured, although most of them swear by whatever concoction they are taking," she said with a sigh. "People never want to admit they made a mistake, and as you probably know, these medicines often contain alcohol or drugs that actually do ease pain and make one feel a little better, if only temporarily." "Exactly. Then I thought perhaps a doctor might be willing to tell me the truth. I know some people become . . . well, ill from taking these medicines and end up in a doctor's care as a result." "Did you think you'd find a doctor at this clinic?" Sarah asked. "No, but I thought a woman-a nurse or midwife-might be more willing to tell me the truth, and since you deal with only women at this clinic, I hoped some of them might speak freely as well." Sarah had to admit her logic was sound. Unfortunately, in Sarah's experience, just because she thought people should do something didn't mean they actually would. "I'm perfectly willing to ask our ladies if they have ever tried a patent medicine, and it's highly likely that they have." "So many people use them," Miss Rodgers agreed. "Yes, well, you have to admit the advertisements are quite impressive, although it's difficult for me to believe that one tonic can cure things as varied as cancer and a toothache." Miss Rodgers smiled. "And it seems they all cure catarrh, whatever that is." "It simply means congestion, although they are never quite clear about what type of congestion they intend to cure." "Are you aware of anyone here who uses any of these so-called medicines?" Sarah had no intention of violating anyone's privacy, especially knowing the ladies in the hallway could hear every word, so she was careful with her reply. "I know many women use Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound for female complaints, although the ladies here aren't having their monthly periods, so that isn't a problem for them." "Indeed it isn't," the woman Sarah had asked to bring them drinks said, carrying in two glasses of lemonade. "Here you are, nice and fresh." "Thank you so much, Annie," Sarah said. "I've taken that Lydia Pinkham's myself," Annie said, handing each of them a glass. "My monthlies were that painful, but Pinkham's helped a lot." Several women in the hallway murmured their agreement. "Lydia Pinkham's is twenty percent alcohol," Miss Rodgers said knowledgeably. "Is it now?" Annie asked. "Is twenty percent a lot?" Miss Rodgers looked a little startled by the question, but Sarah said, "Enough to get you drunk if you take too much." "Peruna's is almost fifty percent alcohol," Miss Rodgers added, naming another popular brand. "I knew a woman took Peruna's, three bottles a day," Annie recalled. "Couldn't hardly walk straight. I guess that explains it. Glad I stuck to Pinkham's." "Thank you, Annie," Sarah repeated more forcefully. Annie finally took the hint and rejoined her compatriots out in the hallway. "Isn't Pinkham's also used for change-of-life symptoms?" Miss Rodgers asked. "Which is also not a problem for our ladies," Sarah replied with a smile to soften her words. Miss Rodgers seemed a little chagrined. "No, of course not. But . . . older women do use it, don't they?" "Women of all ages do, I'm sure." Sarah sighed. "Don't misunderstand me, Miss Rodgers. My first husband was a physician, and no one worked harder to cure his patients than he did but . . . Well, we really know very little about how the human body works and how diseases are contracted and how to treat them. Doctors are often guessing when they treat a patient, and a treatment that cured one person might kill another." "Which is why many people don't trust doctors and refuse to see one even when they are very ill," Miss Rodgers said. "And many others can't afford to visit a doctor even if they would like to." "Exactly. I'm a nurse and a midwife, and I deal with the same issues. The birthing process should be the same for every woman since all women have the same organs, and yet every birth is unique, and sometimes even years of experience don't help me with a particularly difficult birth. And of course not everyone can afford to hire a midwife and some must give birth alone, which can be dangerous and even fatal for both mother and child. That is why I started this clinic." To Sarah's surprise, Miss Rodgers was nodding as if she understood completely. If she had been researching this subject, she probably did. "So naturally, people who are poor or who just don't trust doctors will look for an easier way to cure themselves, and if that comes in a bottle they can buy cheaply, they will do that," Miss Rodgers said, "even if the bottle contains only alcohol and water." "Or opium or morphine or heroin," Sarah added. "All those things will ease pain, which allows people to feel better or at least think they do for a little while." "But they will also create a dependence," Miss Rodgers said with a frown that told Sarah she must have seen this herself. "Yes, an addiction that forces the patient to continue purchasing the so-called medicine, making the manufacturer rich but doing nothing to cure the patient. People who would never dream of going to an opium den or taking drugs of any kind and even people who are morally opposed to liquor in all its forms can become enslaved to these nostrums, believing them to be actual medicines. Miss Rodgers, if you can educate the public about this, you can eliminate a lot of needless suffering." "That is just what I intend to do," Miss Rodgers said. "I wonder if . . . if you'd allow me to interview the ladies you have staying here and anyone else who would like to speak with me." "It isn't my place to allow anyone to do anything here. These ladies are free to speak with you or not, as they choose, but I will certainly invite them to do just that." Sarah glanced over her shoulder at the women gathered in the hallway. "I imagine you will have at least a few willing volunteers." "I'm very grateful, Mrs. Malloy. This is so important." Miss Rodgers's eyes were shining with the fervor Sarah had often seen in would-be reformers. "Yes, it is. I'm afraid I am going to have to leave soon. I must get home, but you are welcome to stay as long as you like and return if you need to. In the meantime, here is my card." Sarah handed her a calling card with her home address. "Feel free to contact me if I can be of any help." Excerpted from Murder in Rose Hill by Victoria Thompson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.