The murder of a wealthy, influential businessman has Det. Frank Malloy investigating the complications of the dead man's family life and rivalries between two schools for the deaf. The case has personal ramifications for Malloy as his own son attends one of the schools. Thompson's 12th historical (after Murder on Waverly Place) set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring Malloy and midwife Sarah Brandt skillfully balances several unusual plot lines: a secret pregnancy, the tense conflict among educators on how to teach the deaf (sign language vs. lip reading), and an ongoing relationship between the victim's deaf daughter and her tutor. VERDICT Thompson embellishes her beautifully constructed mysteries with little-known historical tidbits; her long-running series will offer rewarding reading to fans of Rhys Bowen and Cordelia Frances Biddle. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 2/1/10.]
More murder among the upper classes in turn-of-the-century New York. When businessman Nehemiah Wooten is found in his office, his head smashed in, his widow doesn't seem greatly upset by the death. But when she goes into labor, it's a chance for Detective Frank Malloy to get his midwife friend Sarah Brandt into the house. Sarah makes herself invaluable to the household and manages to pick up information Malloy could never have uncovered. She learns that nobody knew Valora Wooten was pregnant, perhaps because the child is not her husband's but that of his partner's son. Wooten's firm views on eugenics drove him from his wife's bed after the birth of their deaf daughter Electra, who has been taught to lip read but has secretly been taking lessons in American Sign Language from a teacher from a rival school with whom she has fallen in love. Mrs. Wooten brazens it out, insisting the child is her husband's. Electra is glad her father is dead since he stood in the way of her romance. And her brother Leander's indifference is deepened only slightly when he's murdered on a visit to the Bowery. Malloy is surprised to find a bitter rivalry between lip-reading and ASL, which his own deaf son is learning. Wooten was so widely disliked, however, that his views on the deaf provide just one more motive for murder. Thompson (Murder on Waverly Place, 2009, etc.) illuminates a battle in the deaf community that continues even today.