(Image from Barnes & Noble)
With her first coming out in New York City behind her, 18-year-old Deanna Rudolph is spending the summer season in Newport, Rhode Island. She expects to participate in the usual activities—glittering balls, rousing tennis matches, beach-side barbecues, and flirting with eligible bachelors in order to find a suitable husband. Although Deanna finds the frippery of her class exhausting, she has little choice but to engage. She longs to have grand adventures like the kind she secretly reads about in lurid detective novels; knowing that will never happen, she's resigned to her fate. Marriage, it shall be. But first she must spend a whole season avoiding Joe Ballard, her pseudo big brother and ex-fianceé. At least Lord David Manchester, a charming sugar baron with a large plantation in Barbados, should provide her with an appealing summer diversion.
Deanna thinks she knows exactly what to expect from of her months in Rhode Island. What she and her wealthy friends never considered, never saw coming, is murder.
The dead body of Daisy Payne, a maid who works for one of Newport's poshest families, is discovered during a party at the place of her employment. Suspicion falls almost immediately on Joe Ballard. Deanna's on the outs with her childhood friend, but she knows Joe couldn't have done such a dastardly deed. The question is, who did? Was it Daisy's boyfriend, Orrin? Or some murderous stranger?
Though horrified by Daisy's death, Deanna is nonetheless intrigued by the mystery. Like the detectives in her novels, she is determined to solve the case, to discover what really happened to the young maid. Involving herself in the scandalous affairs of the working class will earn Deanna a one-way ticket back to New York if she's found out, so she'll have to poke around quietly. The discoveries she makes during her inquiries shock her to her core—and put her right in the killer's path. Can Deanna expose the villain? Or will hers be the next dead body found on the beach?
With an atmospheric Gilded Age setting, authentic characters, and a steady plot, A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont offers a promising beginning to a new mystery series. Sure, the murderer's identity and motives become fairly obvious. Yes, the story could have used more subtlety and surprise. And yet, A Gilded Grave never got boring for me. I enjoyed it. I'm not sure when a sequel will be appearing, but I'm definitely looking out for—and looking forward to—the next installment.
(Readalikes: Nothing is really coming to mind. Suggestions?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo, mild sexual content
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of A Gilded Grave from Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.