Saturday, March 31, 2018

ARC Review: A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

A Death of No Importance
Author: Mariah Fredericks
Publication: Minotaur Books (April 10, 2018)

Description: Through her exquisite prose, sharp observation and deft plotting, Mariah Fredericks invites us into the heart of a changing New York in her remarkable debut adult novel.

New York City, 1910. Invisible until she’s needed, Jane Prescott has perfected the art of serving as a ladies’ maid to the city’s upper echelons. When she takes up a position with the Benchley family, dismissed by the city’s elite as “new money”, Jane realizes that while she may not have financial privilege, she has a power they do not―she understands the rules of high society. The Benchleys cause further outrage when their daughter Charlotte becomes engaged to notorious playboy Norrie, the son of the eminent Newsome family.

But when Norrie is found murdered at a party, Jane discovers she is uniquely positioned―she’s a woman no one sees, but who witnesses everything; who possesses no social power, but that of fierce intellect―and therefore has the tools to solve his murder. There are many with grudges to bear: from the family Norrie was supposed to marry into, to the survivors of a tragic accident in a mine owned by the Newsomes, to the rising anarchists who are sick of those born into wealth getting away with anything they want. Jane also knows that in both high society and the city’s underbelly, morals can become cheap in the wrong hands: scandal and violence simmer just beneath the surface―and can break out at any time.

My Thoughts: Jane Prescott has decided to write about the events that happened on Christmas Eve 1910 now that all of the relevant players have passed away. Jane was a lady's maid who worked for a newly rich family in New York City. She was hired to guide the daughters - Charlotte and Louise - as they took part in the annual husband hunt. Charlotte was the younger sister but was the one who attracted the men. She was pretty, bubbly, and very socially ambitious. Louise was awkward and shy but had a developing social conscience.

Charlotte manipulates her way into becoming engaged to Norrie Newsome, scion of a high class New York family but not a nice person. Their engagement is to be announced at the Christmas Eve ball hosted by Norrie's father and his new step-mother Rose who was a student with Louise at a prestigious girls' school. However, before the engagement can be announced, Norrie is found murdered in the family library.

Jane begins her investigation when it looks like Charlotte might be accused of the murder. After all, Charlotte railroaded Norrie into the engagement. She cut out the young lady "everyone" knew was his intended fiance and who isn't going away gracefully. Also, the senior Newsome has run afoul of anarchists since he owns a mine where more than 100 miners included eight boy under the age of 10 died in an accident. The company didn't attempt to rescue the boys because they thought it would be too dangerous. He has been receiving threatening notes vowing revenge. Jane's best friend has ties to the anarchists and to newly forming unions and Jane fears that she was somehow involved.

Jane herself was abandoned by her father on arrival in New York from Scotland when she was a small child. She was raised by her uncle who was a minister who ran a home for fallen women. She feels loyalty to the people she works for and has a unique perspective because her position makes her almost invisible to her employers.

I liked the way the story illustrates a turbulent time in US history with the rich desperately holding on to their power as it is being eroded by the rising working class. I liked that Jane figured out who committed the murder and what she decided to do about it. I am really curious about Jane's life between the events of 1910 and the time she wrote her memoirs sometime around 1980. She has a very distinct voice and sensibility.

Favorite Quote:
"Oh, I shan't wait," she said to me. "The engagement will be announced at the Newsome ball on Christmas Eve, and I don't care who doesn't like it or what they have to say. I am marrying Norrie Newsome, and there in nothing anyone can do to stop it."

Sadly, all three of those predictions would fail to come true.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a great book. Definitely adding it to my Goodreads list.


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