August 22, 2019 Galit Gottlieb

Mariah Fredericks (Jane Prescott Mysteries)

The bride was walked down the aisle by her personal psychic. The couple was to honeymoon in the South of France; proceeds from the sale of the wedding photos would be donated to a cause dear to the bride’s heart: the safety and preservation of whales. I happened to notice the story not because I was familiar with the bride or the groom—or even the chimpanzee—but because I recognized the house where the wedding took place. It is now a resort where a great deal of golf is played, but it once was a private home. I was there in 1912. I remember the year clearly because it was shortly after the Titanic sank, taking more than 1500 lives with her. It was a memorable year for other reasons as well. It was the time of the Bull Moose, when Teddy Roosevelt came roaring back to the political arena he had so recently quit. Eleven candidates fought for the favors of the small percentage of the American public able to vote—and women wondered if that fraction should not be enlarged. The arthritic Ottoman Empire was struggling to hold on to its European riches and 3000 cherry blossom trees arrived in Washington as a gift of the Japanese people.

 

Mariah Fredericks is the author of the Edgar-nominated Y/A novel Crunch Time (. She was born and raised in New York City, where she lives today with her family. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in history and was the head copywriter for Book-of-the-Month Club for many years.

I was delighted, upon picking up A Death of No Importance, to be swept into another world. In a simple, elegant writing style, Ms. Fredericks describes the life of a wealthy but troubled family in 1910 New York City. Jane Prescott is ladies’ maid to Charlotte Benchley. A gruesome murder disrupts what was to have been Charlotte’s engagement party to a wealthy society playboy and Jane realizes that she is in a unique position to ascertain the identity of the murderer. With the help of a friendly journalist, she searches for the truth.

The second book, Death of a New American, picks up two years later, and Jane is now accompanying the family to Long Island, where their second daughter, Louise Bencley is to be married. The father of the groom is known to have vanquished an Italian mafia family, so when one of the family’s employees is found murdered, it is at first assumed to be a possible revenge killing. But the friendly journalist who helped Jane in the first book again requests her help, and Jane used her impeccable manners, years of service, and understanding of human nature to once again reveal what actually happened.

I look forward to the next book in the series, due out in 2020.