Murder at the Breakers: A Gilded Newport Mystery

Kensington. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780758290823. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758290830. M
Miss Emmaline Cross may not have access to the Vanderbilt riches as a member of her father's lowly branch of the family tree; instead she is the beneficiary of a loving home and a feisty demeanor inherited from her mother's side. Invited to a grand ball in August 1895 at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts' Newport mansion, Emma attends as family as well as a writer for the small local paper's society page. But it's not the gala's social scene that turns out to be newsworthy, Emma witnesses a man fall to his death, and her older brother is the prime suspect. What can a determined lady do but investigate? A variety of likable characters create a strong sense of community, adding to the uneasy feeling Emma develops when familiar faces must be reevaluated as potential murderers.
VERDICT Maxwell's portrait of Gilded Age mores, with a little leeway for romantic attachments, provides an opportunity for readers to consider how wealth and status can be as restrictive as it is empowering. This is a promising start to an engaging mystery series filled with smart observations.
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