Book Title and Author: Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks
Series: Jane Prescott #2
Publication Date and Publisher: April 9, 2019 by Minotaur Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: April 1, 2019 (paper copy from the publisher)
The atmospheric, compelling follow-up to the stunning debut A Death of No Importance, featuring series character, Jane Prescott.
In 1912, as New York reels from the news of the Titanic disaster, ladies’ maid Jane Prescott travels to Long Island with the Benchley family. Their daughter Louise is to marry William Tyler, at their uncle and aunt’s mansion; the Tylers are a glamorous, storied couple, their past filled with travel and adventure. Now, Charles Tyler is known for putting down New York’s notorious Italian mafia, the Black Hand, and his wife Alva has settled into domestic life.
As the city visitors adjust to the rhythms of the household and plan Louise’s upcoming wedding, Jane quickly befriends the Tyler children’s nanny, Sofia—a young Italian-American woman. However, one unusually sultry spring night, Jane is woken by a scream from the nursery—and rushes in to find Sofia murdered, and the carefully locked window flung open.
The Tylers believe that this is an attempted kidnapping of their baby gone wrong—a warning from the criminal underworld to Charles Tyler. But Jane is asked to help with the investigation by her friend journalist Michael Behan, who knows that she is uniquely placed to see what other tensions may simmer just below the surface in this wealthy, secretive household. Was Sofia’s murder fall-out from the social tensions rife in New York, or could it be a much more personal crime?
Although I haven’t read Mariah Fredericks first book in the Jane Prescott series, A Death of No Importance, I still wanted to read Death of a New American because I enjoy this time in American history. If you are like me and love historical mysteries, then this book is not to be missed even though it’s book two! Best of all, Fredericks does a wonderful job giving new readers enough information about what happened in the first book that they aren’t lost.
Jane Prescott, ladies’ maid to Miss Louise Benchley, is sent to Long Island to oversee Louisa’s wedding to William Tyler at his aunt and uncle estate. Charles and Ava have a much-talked about past—Charles took down the Black Hand (the Italian mafia), and Ava is a former society darling, so they have wealthy, glamorous lives, as well some enemies, so they keep a well-guarded and secure household.
Jane only expects the usual wedding and family drama when she gets to Long Island, but she couldn’t be more wrong as she settles into the Tyler household and makes friends with their nanny, Sofia. In a shocking turn of events, Jane finds Sofia murdered! It appears to be a botched kidnapping attempted, but is it really? Or is it something more sinister at play?
Jane begins investigating the murder with the help of her journalist friend, Michael Behan since he knows she’s in a perfect position to gather clues from the household. While sleuthing and discovering clues, Jane’s intelligence and wit are perfect in helping her solve this mystery, and I love her character!
One thing that I found appealing about Death of a New American is how obvious it is that Fredericks researched the time period around America in 1912. The detail in the novel is stunning, and the scenes are masterfully written. Also, parts of the storyline, although over a hundred years ago, feel very relevant to today, which I found compelling. The issues of the time period with immigration, women’s rights, racism, and classism echo issues of today although these issues are subtlety crafted into the novel’s background to give the main plot a strong and vibrant narrative thread.
If you love historical fiction with some mystery, then you’ll love this book and Jane! She’s a heroine who I found extremely appealing, compassionate, dynamic, and well-characterized. I definitely want more Jane Prescott in the future, and I look forward to future books in the series.
**Thank you so much, Alison Ziegler, at Minotaur Books and Mariah Fredericks for the review copy. All opinions are my own. **