Monday, February 13, 2017

What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson

From the publisher: As the Great Blizzard of 1888 cripples New York City, heiress Prudence MacKenzie sits anxiously in her Fifth Avenue home waiting for her fiancé’s safe return. But the fearsome storm rages through the night. With daylight, more than 200 people are found to have perished. Among them is Prudence’s fiancé—his body frozen, his head crushed by a branch, his fingers clutching a single playing card, the ace of spades . . .  . Close on the heels of her father’s untimely demise, she is convinced Charles’s death was no accident. The ace of spades was a code he shared with his friend, Geoffrey Hunter, a former Pinkerton agent. Wary of sinister forces closing in on her, Prudence turns to Geoffrey as her only hope in solving a murder not all believe in—and to help protect her inheritance from a stepmother who seems more interested in the family fortune than Prudence’s wellbeing.

What the Dead Leave Behind is a well written and well researched historical mystery. I don’t know much about 1888 New York, but nothing jumped out at me as being historically inaccurate. Main character Prudence does not always act the way young women of that time probably acted, but that’s excusable in a novel about a strong-minded and independent young woman.

This book has a lovely cover and a winning heroine who has weaknesses – like a fondness for laudanum she must resist – as well as great strength of character. She does not fall into the arms of the first eligible man she meets after her fiancé’s death.

I’m not a mother or a stepmother, and even I am tired of the wicked stepmother trope. Still, author Simpson does well with this overused plot device. At least the author makes no secret of the fact that the stepmother is the one to watch out for. The plot took turns that I did not expect but were believable. The main characters are well developed, and there are interesting side characters. This seems to be the first in a series, and I’m sure some of those characters will continue forward in later books. 

If this does continue as a series, I will be on the watch for book two. If you are a lover of historical mysteries with lots of detail, you may want to read What the Dead Leave Behind.

I read an advance reader copy of What the Dead Leave Behind. It is scheduled to be published in late April and will be available through the Galesburg Public Library in print and as an ebook.