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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review - Secret of White Rose

Today I review a historical mystery featuring 1906 New York and the turbulent times of wealth disparity that erupted into violence.  "Stefanie Pintoff is the Edgar® award-winning author of a mystery series where early criminal science meets the dark side of old New York."

If you are looking for the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop, it is the post just prior to this one - just scroll down. 

Author: Stephanie Pintoff

Copyright: May 2011 (Minotaur) 384 pgs

Series: 3rd in Detective Ziele Investigations

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Police Procedural

Main Character:  Detective Simon Ziele 

Setting: 1906, New York

Obtained Through: LibraryThing for an honest review

The book opens with Simon Ziele being hustled to a murder scene out of his jurisdication by criminologist Alistair Sinclair.  Alistair had gone to law school with murder victim, Judge Hugo Jackson.  Since Judge Jackson was presiding over the trial of an anarchist Al Drayson his murder is the highest priority.  Drayson planted a bomb to kill industrialsit Andrew Carnegie but ended up killing five innocent people including a child.  The media has whipped the city into high tension and the murder is ratcheting up the tension.  The widow of Judge Jackson insists that Simon be on the case since Alistair wants him.

The widow's demands puts Simon on the bad side of Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham (a historical person who really did command the New York Police from 1906 to 1909.)  Commissioner Bingham rules with a dictatorial style and insists that the anarchists will all be brought to justice for the judge's death.  But Simon and Alistair uncover a secret code in a sheet of music at the crime scene (along with a white rose) which clearly shows it is revenge against the judge.  More murders occur and Simon gets increasingly frustrated as it becomes clear that Alistair is keeping vital information to himself. Then the Commissioner wants to use Simon's tragic past to get to the anarchists.  Both Alistair and Simon are in danger and there are some tense moments.

Simon Ziele is a meaty character with a sad past that has forged his sense of justice while having the compassion to understand it isn't always clear cut in crime.  Simon must face his past and the ghosts that live there during the story which shows how deeply he still hurts.  He is dating Alistair's daughter-in-law (a young widower) Isabella.  His relationship with her is an ever present reminder of her social status and his lack of status. Isabella is great, I immediately liked her as a smart and capable woman who understands Simon well.  Alistair is single minded and privileged and this story shows he is shaken to his core during this case.  Alistair is an interesting character that at turns would draw me in and then make me mad.

The story was a bit slow to grab hold of me.  It took a few chapters before the elements all meshed and I was compelled to read it at every opportunity.  It seemed to pick up speed the further I got into the story.  By the end I didn't want to leave Detective Simon Ziele's world - which is a sign it really came alive for me.  It showed the seamy side of New York's streets, crime, and dirty politics against the backdrop of China Town and the Waldorf Astoria, from the "tombs" where prisoners are kept to the luxury homes of judges it displays NY and all her sides.

The plot was good with several elements coming together.  The climax was gripping and there were several exciting tense scenes that were nicely done.  All story lines were wrapped up well.  I had not read the two prior books in this series and I had no problem picking up significant backstory.  This novel is a little more "real" without being gruesome which I appreciated.   If you enjoy historical mysteries with a little bit of grit this book will please you.

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I saw Stephanie speak at the New York public library a few weeks ago, and I found her very sweet. I've been interested in reading this series because I devour anything historical that takes place in New York. I adored Caleb Carr's two historical mysteries set during this time period.

A.F. Heart said...

Thank you Elizabeth,

I must admit that I love historical mysteries more and more. This one has a good measure of suspense that surprised me.

Ann Summerville said...

Thanks for the review - I stopped by from the hop.

Misha said...

I have this book on my TBR, so I am glad to see a positive review. I really enjoy historical mysteries like this one.

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