It’s the summer of 1894, and an infidelity case has brought PI Mary Handley to a far corner of Brooklyn: Coney Island. In the midst of her investigation, Mary is contacted by a convicted man’s brother to reopen a murder case. A prostitute was killed by a Jack the Ripper copycat years ago in her New York hotel room, but her true killer was never found. Once again it’s up to Mary to make right the city’s wrongs.
New York City’s untouchable head of detectives, Thomas Byrnes, swears he put the right man behind bars, but as Mary digs deeper, she finds corruption at the heart of New York’s justice system, involving not only the police, but the most powerful of stock titans. Disturbing evidence of other murders begins to surface, each one mimicking Jack the Ripper’s style, each one covered up by Thomas Byrnes.
As Mary pieces together the extent of the damage, she crosses paths with Harper Lloyd, an investigative reporter. Their relationship grows into a partnership, and perhaps more, and together they must catch a killer who’s still out there, and reverse the ruthless workings of New York’s elite. It’ll be Mary’s most dangerous, most personal case yet. (goodreads.com)
I adored LAST STOP IN BROOKLYN and Mary Handley. It’s funny because I’d just finished reading a book set about 50 years prior but written about ten years ago that handled the societal norms regarding things like race horribly in a bid to be “authentic.” Meanwhile I pick up this book next and it’s handled wonderfully, with a self-aware character, multiple characters, who are aware of the ills of society and those with such extreme opinions on people different from them are painted in a poor light regardless of what was “normal” at the time. I loved it.
Mary is a spitfire who stands on her own two feet and won’t let anyone else support her. She doesn’t take crap from anyone, her mother included, and is determined to find the truth, but not at the cost of the people to whom she’s closest. When someone who’s helping her draws the short end of the stick she puts an immediate halt to whatever it is they were doing, not willing to sacrifice everything they have along with what she’s already putting up. She’s a commendable person, if not stubborn and pig-headed, at times to a fault, and every once in a while she doesn’t quite know when to pick her battles.
Harper Lloyd is a great complement to Mary who works with her instead of against her and steps back so she can be the protagonist of her own story. They work well together and their sniping and sarcasm with each other is hilarious. The first time they meet is just the best.
I liked how things were solved at the end of the book. There were pieces to the puzzle that worked out, some that eventually worked out but took a while, and some that didn’t. It didn’t wrap itself up in a neat little bow, which I really liked. I think it worked well with the overall tone of the book. Despite how much I liked how the pervasive racism of the time was handled, it is ultimately an idealized version of characters. That’s not to say people like Mary didn’t exist at the time, but racism was far more prevalent and those who fought against it were fewer. So I think the less than perfect ending worked well against the tone of the book for that reason.
I just love following around smart women who don’t take any crap from anyone, especially women who buck norms of their time. And that’s Mary. I just bought the first book in the series because I want to start from the beginning and revel in her awesomeness from the start. I do wish, though, that Coney Island was a little more of a character in the book. I love old New York and Coney Island especially. It’s not that I didn’t feel it, but it didn’t come off as rich as I would have liked to have seen it. Other than that it’s an excellent read.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through First to Read in exchange for an honest review.