by Sandra Murphy
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Golden Cage, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, as well as a link to purchase it from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Deanna Randolph is staying with Gran Gwen of the Ballard family while her own mother and sister are in Switzerland. It sounds like a good plan, but Gwen is unconventional at best and her daughter Laurette, takes unconventional even farther as she champions women’s rights, including the vote.
Deanna is able to wear dresses that are a little more daring, ride a bicycle as long as she’s with her cycling club, and even has a tennis dress. Newport is beginning to loosen up a bit, although there are still men who have appointed themselves in charge of what is decent behavior and what is not— mostly for the women.
Elspeth is Deanna’s maid and best friend, an unusual arrangement for the times. They secretly read the dime novels about female detectives and long for excitement in their own lives. Deanna and the Ballards are invited to an evening of theater, complete with a stage set up on the lawn. The Golden Age is nothing if not an over the top display of wealth and position. The play is trite, but the setting is magical, at least as seen from the audience.
One of the actresses, Amabelle Deeks, is the daughter of a friend of Laurette’s. Deanna and Laurette are able to go backstage to say hello after the show and extend an invitation for her to visit them at the Ballard home. Amabelle suspects it’s a ploy from her mother to get her to come home, and says no.
Unexpectedly, she turns up in the wee hours and asks for help, refusing to say just what the problem is. She’s wearing a skimpy costume, is cold and frightened. The next morning, Amabelle is gone, but Charlie, one of the actors, is found dead in the conservatory.
Will, a friend of Joe’s, now turned police officer, is sent to investigate. It’s a hard thing to do when the rich won’t talk to him and the poor are afraid to talk at all. In spite of their uncooperative attitude, the gentry demands an immediate arrest of one of the actors.
Deanna continues to take risks, both for physical harm and those that could damage her reputation and ability to catch a husband. Joe gets more and more frustrated as the case goes on. Deanna thinks Amabelle is either a murder victim herself, the murderer, or is being framed. Like the detectives in the books she reads, she must find the truth.
It’s a pleasure to read a book set in a time before cell phones, automobiles, and selfies but frustrating to see how the women were treated and expected to behave. Deanna and Elspeth are destined to break the mold I think, and it will be most interesting to watch that happen.
This is the second in the Newport Gilded Age Mystery series. The characters are well thought out, eager to change the world or at least their part of it, and like everyone else, to be happy. Shelley Freydont also writes the Celebration Bay mysteries, four books in all. Add them to your summer reading list as well.
To enter to win a copy of A Golden Cage, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “cage,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 16, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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