by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to win a copy of Brooklyn Graves at the end of this review.
A skillful writer can smoothly educate and insert immense amounts of research into a mystery without overwhelming the reader or distracting from the main plot. Stein has mastered this craft in her second mystery featuring “historian-in-training” Erica Donato, a Ph.D. student working on her dissertation on urban history and the effects of immigration and gentrification. Erica also works part-time at the Brooklyn Historical Museum and it is there that her mentor and boss assigns her to assist Dr. Thomas Flint, an expert on Tiffany studio designs and artwork and a complete arrogant jerk. However, his expertise is required when a cache of letters and ephemera linked to a female Tiffany studio artist is brought to the museum and the luddite Dr. Flint demands Erica’s assistance as guide to the Green-Wood Cemetery, where prominent displays of Tiffany glass windows are displayed.
While something seems fishy and disruptive at the cemetery, Erica has little time to dwell on this when she learns the news that Dima Ostrov, the custodian at her daughter Chris’s school and the father of one of Chris’s best friends, was shot and left dead on his front lawn. The Russian immigrant had worked two jobs to better his family and put his son through an expensive private school, and now that fifteen year-old Alex Ostrov and Chris both share the trauma of having lost their fathers Erica can’t help but sympathize. Widowed as a very young bride and left to raise her daughter on her own, Erica was able to use her late husband’s fireman life insurance to leave her working-class Brooklyn neighborhood for an academic life he could never have imagined. Still single, Erica now copes with raising a teenaged daughter whose independence, stubbornness, and intelligence rivals her own, and the irony is not lost on Erica’s father. With Chris now intent on forging a closer bond with her grandfather, Erica’s resentment towards her father and her daughter’s chaotic emotional fluctuations have Erica completely unbalanced and unprepared for this new development in their relationships.
In this sequel to Brooklyn Bones Stein once again combines a history of Brooklyn with her heroine’s dynamic relationships with her teenaged daughter and estranged father. The details of a female artist struggling within the Tiffany Studios are absolutely entrancing and weave into the mystery behind Dima’s death. Erica’s frustration with her daughter and the possibility of a relationship with either an old acquaintance or a new one also enhance the storyline and keep the plot fresh and light. The writing is very engaging and the characters so real and relatable that readers will want to be a part of Erica’s complicated but entertaining world. The history of Brooklyn once again is revealed to be as fascinating as the contemporary mystery in this witty novel of family drama and artistic crimes.
To enter to win a copy of Brooklyn Graves, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Brooklyn,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 15, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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