Murder on Black Friday
Author: P. B. Ryan
Copyright: 2005 (Berkley); 230 pgs.
Series: 4th in the Gilded Age Mystery series
Where & When: Boston, September 1869; January 1870
Who: Nell Sweeney, governess, and Dr. William Hewitt
Summary: When two acquaintances of the Hewitts, Nell’s wealthy employers, are found dead on Wall Street’s first “Black Friday”, most people assume they committed suicide after being financially ruined. Yet upon closer examination, Nell’s trusted friend, Dr. Will Hewitt suspects that one of the men was actually murdered. With little more than her Irish wit and indomitable will to guide her, Nell sets out to help Will find the culprit. But as the investigation progresses, the pair discovers that the two men were linked by something more valuable — and far more treacherous — than gold.
Comments: Will is currently teaching medical jurisprudence at Harvard Medical School, with the condition that he be allowed to conduct postmortems on any of the interesting corpses in Massachusetts General’s morgue. By interesting, he means those individuals who’s death were violent or unexplained. That’s how he ended up performing autopsies on Noah Bassett and Philip Munro.
The two men’s deaths were as different as their lives. Noah was a member of the Brahmin elite — old money and lineage — but whose financial situation was in dire straits even before the Gold Market plummet. He left behind two, unmarried adult daughters — Miriam and Rebecca. Philip, only thirty-nine and unmarried, was a financial genius and a self-made man. Wealthy, and without lineage, he was still an outsider to the Boston elite. Men like Noah Bassett went to Philip for investment advice. None of them would have wanted to see him married to one of their daughters. Will is certain that Noah Bassett took his own life due to being financially ruined, and he’s just as certain that Philip did not throw himself out a fourth floor window, based on forensic evidence. Will in convinced that one of Philip’s clients — Noah Bassett, for instance — may have killed him and made it look like suicide.
Nell is on friendly terms with Miriam Bassett and she agrees to help Will question the Bassett sisters. Unexpected help with the investigation comes in the form of Harry Hewitt, who idolized Philip Munro and who is deeply affected by his death. Harry is willing to cooperate with Will, wanting to see Philip’s murderer brought to justice.
On the personal side of things, Nell and Will are maintaining their sham engagement, which continues to be a double edge sword for Will. It allows him to see Nell and get to know his daughter, but it’s doing nothing for his resolve to maintain a respectable relationship with Nell. He informs Nell that he will be heading to Shanghai at the end of the school term — news that distresses Nell and prompts Will to tell her he can be persuaded to stay with a single kiss. Bad idea, Will. He realizes that he’s being selfish and tells her to forget about the request (as if she could!). True to his word, Will leaves Boston. The scene at the rail station is tender and bittersweet. As always, Nell and Will’s predicament tugs at my heart.
Started: 3 June 2008
Finished: 7 June 2008