Wednesday, March 30, 2022

ARC Review: Cleopatra's Dagger by Carole Lawrence

Cleopatra's Dagger

Carole Lawrence
Publication: Thomas & Mercer (April 1, 2022)

Description: A journalist in nineteenth-century New York matches wits with a serial killer in a gripping thriller by the prizewinning author of the Ian Hamilton Mysteries.

New York, 1880. Elizabeth van den Broek is the only female reporter at the Herald, the city’s most popular newspaper. Then she and her bohemian friend Carlotta Ackerman find a woman’s body wrapped like a mummy in a freshly dug hole in Central Park—the intended site of an obelisk called Cleopatra’s Needle. The macabre discovery takes Elizabeth away from the society pages to follow an investigation into New York City’s darkest shadows.

When more bodies turn up, each tied to Egyptian lore, Elizabeth is onto a headline-making scoop more sinister than she could have imagined. Her reporting has readers spellbound, and each new clue implicates New York’s richest and most powerful citizens. And a serial killer is watching every headline.

Now a madman with an indecipherable motive is coming after Elizabeth and everyone she loves. She wants a good story? She may have to die to get it.

My Thoughts: This historical thriller set in New York City in 1880 introduces socialite and reporter Elizabeth van den Broek. After college at Vassar, she was hired as a social reporter at the New York Herald. One day on her way to work, she sees a woman being assaulted by a man in a third-floor window as her train passes by. 

When she and a new friend from her apartment building are taking a morning walk, they discover the body of a young woman wrapped as a mummy and left in the pit where the new Cleopatra's Needle will be placed. Elizabeth begs her editor to let her pursue the story since she has recently made a connection with Detective Sargeant William O'Grady who came to investigate the crime. 

Given permission by her editor and with an introduction by OGrady, Elizabeth and a photographer visit the morgue and get a chance to see and photograph the body. There, Elizabeth learns that the young woman had been strangled and had all her blood drained through an incision that looks like an Egyptian symbol of some kind. 

As Elizabeth pursues her leads and writes stories that make her a celebrity, the villain who believes he is the reincarnated Osiris is planning and executing more murders all with an Egyptian theme. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is facing prejudice and assault at work, dealing with the mental illness of her older sister Laura, and trying to understand her mother. 

Elizabeth also meets a handsome young doctor who has some new ideas to treat her sister. She also makes friends with Carlotta Ackerman who is an artist with a studio in her apartment building and her brother Jonah who is flirting with socialism and a great admirer of Karl Marx. 

The great strength of this story was the historical setting which was filled with intriguing details and characters. What Elizabeth was allowed to do and the attitudes of the men around her seemed realistic. Her desire to be a reformer and pathfinder for women coming along behind her made Elizabeth interesting. Details about the corruption of the police added to the story. The mystery was somewhat weaker as it all seemed to be summed up rather abruptly. 

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy getting to know Elizabeth. 

Favorite Quote:
Secrets were slow poison, doing their damage in the dark, she reflected as she watched the ebb and flow of life on the streets below. The city, too, had secrets nestled within its breast -- dark, dangerous ones, she thought as she stepped at last out into the late-afternoon haze. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Prime. You can buy your copy here.

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