From Publishers Weekly
Sordid secrets of the rich and powerful drive the plot of Biddle's unconvincing Philadelphia historical, the first of a new series. One morning in 1842, Main Line financier Lemuel Beale fails to return from a routine hunting trip; his capable but coddled daughter, Martha, and Thomas Kelman, assistant to the mayor of Philadelphia, set out to track him down. At the same time, a brutal serial killer of young prostitutes is stalking the inner-city slums, and traveling mesmerist Eusapio Paladino is chilling aristocratic audiences with performances in which the dead appear to be calling out through his trances. These disparate yet interrelated story threads combine in an intricately orchestrated narrative that implicates the Brahmin class and the corruption that comes with their absolute power. Biddle wonderfully evokes the color and culture of the time, but her overstocked tale ends hastily and unbelievably. Biddle is the coauthor with her husband, Steve Zettel, of Death on the Diagonal
and other Nero Blanc crossword puzzle mysteries. (Feb.)
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In 1842 Philadelphia, Martha Beale's life changes dramatically after her father, wealthy financier Lemuel Beale, disappears while hunting. Her father's confidential secretary, Owen Simms, quietly takes over the decision making in her life, and Martha is not sure how to break free of his seemingly solicitous control. Martha believes her father might be alive, and Thomas Kelman, assistant to the mayor of Philadelphia, investigates his disappearance, along with the ritual murders of several young prostitutes. A conjurer, Eusapio Paladino, complicates matters with his visions of the murders and his affair with a wealthy society woman. Told from multiple points of view, the many story lines converge as Martha and Thomas solve her father's disappearance and find a pair of murderers. An excellent sense of time and place permeate the action, but the complex plot and multiple points of view, some unnecessary to the main story line, distract from Martha and Thomas' investigation. Leisurely pacing; numerous, well-integrated details of place and time; and appealing central characters make for a satisfying historical mystery. Sue O'BrienCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved