Another one of my favourite mystery series is the Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Holt. Sarah Brandt, a midwife, and Frank Malloy, a police inspector, team up to solve many murders. At the beginning their lives are separate yet intertwined.The books are set in New York city at the turn of the 20th century.
The 1st book, Murder on Astor Place, introduces Sarah as a midwife in the early 20th century in New York. She is called to help deliver the birth of a baby at a rooming house. While there she sees one of the residents and calls her by her childhood friend’s name as the resemblance is so striking. The next day she goes back to visit the new baby and finds that the other resident was murdered. This brings in Frank Malloy,a detective sergeant with the Police department.
As it was in those days, the rich and powerful families could determine if they wanted the murder investigated. Fearful of scandal the VanDamm family declines an investigation into the murder. But there are other murders and Sarah can’t help but delve into them to find the killer of Alicia. Frank was removed from Alicia’s investigation but he does look into the other ones and finds they are all related.
A wealthy business man is murdered and Frank Malloy is asked to investigate the crime in the 12th book, Murder on Lexington Avenue. The victim has a deaf daughter, and it is well known that Malloy’s son is also deaf. The victim’s daughter went to a different institution than Malloy’s son. A suspect is a teacher at Malloy’s son’s school … but it might also be a family member … or a business rival. While being interviewed the widow goes into labour and Sarah the midwife is called for. Sarah, of course, gets involved in the murder and she sets out to determine who is innocent and who is guilty to solve the murder.
There are some interesting and fascinating revelations in the story. During the investigation it is revealed that the widow had an affair with the business partner’s son. Money has been stolen from the company, probably by the partner or his son. Then the son of the victim is also murdered. The daughter of the victim wants to learn to sign, something her father objected to as he only wanted her to lip read and speak. Her brother arranges for someone to teach her signing and it appears she falls in love with him and wants to marry him, something else her father refuses! The daughter has a change of heart towards the end of the story.
Frank and Sarah solve the murder but not without putting Sarah at risk.
Murder on Fifth Avenue is the 14th book and Malloy is requested to solve the murder of Chilton Devries, a person of high social standing, by Felix Decker. Felix is the father of Sarah Brandt, a midwife, who works alongside Frank in solving murders. Devries is discovered dead in the Knickerbocker Club, of which Felix is an outstanding member. It turns out Devries was stabbed earlier in the day, and died when he got to the club. Frank has to figure out how did this happen and through his investigations he discovers Devries was no gentleman and got up to all sorts of no good deeds. There are many suspects in this case … his wife, Lucretia, his son Paul his daughter in law, Garnet, his valet, and business associates. Women were treated poorly by rich and powerful men and this story shows how Devries treated the women around him. No wonder he ended up dead.
The development and relationships of the main characters in this series continues throughout the book and it makes you want to read the next one in the series to see how it continues.
The 15th book, Murder in Chelsea, sees Catherine had been left at the Daughters of Hope Mission a year or so ago. Sarah developed an attachment to the child took her in and treated her as her daughter.
It seems a woman had turned up at the shelter asking where Catherine was as she was looking to take her back to her mother. Her mother had abandoned Catherine about a year ago and left her with Anne Murphey. Anne was scared something would happen to the girl so she left her at the mission for safety. Sarah is unwilling to just hand over Catherine until she knows the whole story. The mother who was an actress had an affair with a rich business man and he paid to keep her and the baby until they vanished.
Now it also seems the father wants her in his life and was looking for her also. Sarah wants Frank Malloy to help find out about the parents. When he goes to question Anne, he finds her murdered. Through sleuthing he discovers the father and also the mother. But before long Anne has been murdered and he sets out to find who did this. Along the way there are more murders and a few suspects are questioned.
Frank is determined to find out the truth so Sarah can keep Catherine. An unexpected turn of events at the end of the book gives it a very happy ending, in more ways than one.
In the previous book Frank Malloy was named as the person to gain a huge inheritance. At the start of the 16th book, Murder in Murray Hill, Frank is starting to work on another case but the truth comes out about his inheritance and he is fired from the police.
The girl he is trying to find had replied to a “lonely” hearts ad in the paper and after arranging a meeting with the person she vanishes and her father hires Frank to search for her. The search uncovers a plot that targets single women. They find a villain that preys on single, not pretty, and lonely women. His treatment of them is horrendous.
Murders are uncovered in a twisted plot and at the end the girl is found and returns to her family home. After a lot of danger to both of them, Sarah and Frank have found a place to live to include everyone.
The last few books in the series involve cases that Frank and Sarah solve in their own detective agency. The books now include Maeve, Frank’s mother, Sarah mother, and Gino. The latest book, Murder on Wall Street is published in 2021.