Saturday, October 23, 2021

Book & Audio Review: Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell

Murder at the Breakers
Alyssa Maxwell
Narrator: Eva Kaminsky
Series: A Gilded Newport Mystery (Book 1)
Publication: Kensington Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2014)
Length: 305 p.; 9 hours and 42 minutes

Description: In a historical mystery for Downton Abbey fans, a society reporter covers a killer party in Gilded Age Newport.

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost .

My Thoughts: Emma Cross is a poor relation to those famous Vanderbilts who spend summers in Newport. She's invited to the grand reopening of The Breakers and discovers the body of Cornelius's financial secretary and also her half-brother Brady passed out in the room the victim fell from. Everyone wants to quickly cover things up and railroad Brady for the crime. But Emma doesn't believe that her brother could have done that. Not that Brady is squeaky clean; he's noted for scams and not unknown to the police. In fact, he had lined Emma up as a distraction for Cornelius so that he could return some stolen plans that same evening.

Emma decides to use her family connections and her abilities as a writer for the Newport Observer to discover who really murdered Alvin Goddard. Her investigation takes her into the secrets of the summer visitors to Newport and force her to learn things she didn't want to know about some of her friends. 

She finds a number of suspects who had reason to want Goddard dead including her cousin Neily who objected to Goddard following him to discourage his romance with a woman his parents feel is unsuitable. There is lots of financial chicanery going on too, centering around a railroad line Cornelius wants to take over. One of childhood friend's new husband is involved with the railroad as is her father's best friend and honorary uncle. Then there is the mysterious Derrick Anderson who seems to be following Emma around. 

Emma is an interesting character who combines shrewdness with a sort of naivety that seems to go with her young age. She's only twenty-one; her parents are artists who have left her and moved to France. She lives in a home inherited from her great-aunt and cared for by her former nanny whom she thinks of as an unofficial grandmother. 

There is a nice mix of real historical figures and made-up characters in this story. There is also a touch of danger as Emma gets closer to uncovering the murderer. And there is a potential new romance for Emma. 

This was an engaging story. I liked the way Eva Kaminsky portrayed Emma through her narration.

Favorite Quote:
But sometimes a child just wants to be held. Just wants a mother's or father's whole attention, not as a reward for any particular achievement, but simply because.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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