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A Deadly Affection Paperback – January 18, 2012
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"Overholt's novel captures the tone of [early] 20th-century New York in a deeply pleasing way. Strong, flowing prose and captivating characters ... pull the reader in to the very last page. A well-paced whodunit full of dark secrets and fascinating intrigue." Kirkus, Starred Review
"Backed by meticulous research and presented with acute attention to detail, the novel ... shines like a star in a highly competitive genre ... Even a seasoned reader of murder mysteries will be surprised at the number of false conclusions one can reach when [reading] Overholt's debut novel." ForeWord Clarion Review, 5 Stars
"I had to put my life on hold until I'd finished it. What a satisfying finish...and what a smooth, complex, enlightening, riveting journey. A Deadly Affection is masterfully crafted, a delightful combination of suspense and romance. I cannot wait for Overholt's next novel." Historical Novels Review
About the Author
Cuyler Overholt worked as a litigation attorney and freelance business writer before turning to fiction. A Deadly Affection, her first novel, received ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award for best mystery. The author's interest in old New York was sparked by the reminiscences of her grandmother, whose life spanned over a century of the city's history. She lives with her husband, a psychologist, in the hills of Northwestern Connecticut, where she is working on her second novel.
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Cuyler Overholt worked as a litigation attorney, freelance business writer before turning to fiction. This, her debut novel, received ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award for best mystery, was shortlisted for the Strand Critics Award for best first novel. The writer lives in Western Connecticut, near the New York border, has said she became interested in New York during this period through her close relationship with her grandmother. Both the the books in her Dr. Genevieve Summerford series have been bestsellers: the more recent A Promise of Ruin and this one.
In this, the author’s first fictional outing, she has given us a strong, detailed look at the New York of the Edwardian period she has chosen, looking at the situations of rich, poor, working class, law enforcement. Overholt does the reading public a favor by introducing/discussing two serious diseases that are still very much with us, not yet curable. Huntington’s chorea, from which I believe Arlo Guthrie suffers, and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities). There is a nearly bloodless mystery, but I’d consider it more a romance than a mystery, as the former stable boy precisely meets the threshold of romantic hero: dark, Irish, mysterious… Furthermore, I was not happy with the book’s length at 425 pages, or with its stupefying slowness of pace. But my major problem with the book was its overall lack of credibility. As it opens, we find Genevieve about to meet with a few depressed women, to see if she can talk them to better mental health. Well, this book was published in 2012 by which time it was generally well known, and surely known to the writer, that happy talk would go only so far in curing depression. There’s that old saying that “candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.” How about I update that saying to “happy talk is fine but Xanax is the axe for anxiety, depression.” Disappointing.
Eliza, who is one of Genevieve's patients and who is a member of the therapy group, gave up a daughter for adoption many years ago when she was 15 years old. It is her dream to find out where her daughter is and to assure herself that her child, whom she calls 'Joy', is leading a good life. Eliza remembers the name of the doctor who attended her when she gave birth and who was responsible for taking her child from her. Eliza asks Genevieve if she has the right to ask this doctor for the location of her child and the name of the adoptive parents. Genevieve assures Eliza that this is her right. Eliza then goes to speak to the physician without realizing that she will be the last one to see him alive before he is found murdered.
Detective Maloney is assigned to the murder case and immediately accuses Eliza of the crime, deciding that she is not of sound mind. Genevieve knows in her gut that Eliza is innocent and decides that she must prove this. Eliza is the child of privilege and has no idea what she will encounter as she tries to prove Eliza's innocence.
The novel has an interesting back story. Eliza's brother died in a freak accident when he was a little boy. Eliza, who was a child herself at the time, was supposed to be watching him and blames herself for her brother's death. She believes that her father has never forgiven her and has spent her life trying to win her father's approval and respect. Another part of Genevieve's past deals with her adolescent attraction to her family's stable boy, Simon. She and Simon had a mutual attraction which her father disapproved of and he made sure their relationship would not continue. The way Genevieve's father handled the situation was very cruel to Simon.
As Genevieve begins to investigate the murder, she must turn to Simon, who is now an influential politician, for help. Can he forgive her for the past? Does she still have feelings for him?
This is an interesting and speculative psychological mystery. It has good characterization and a romantic bent. The descriptions of the historical aspects of New York City, along with its impoverished and privileged residents, provide a nice break from the intensity of the murder investigation. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.