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Book Author: Mariah Fredericks

A DEATH OF NO IMPORTANCE by Mariah Fredericks: Book Review

It’s a perfect match.  The Benchleys are nouveau riche and in need of a lady’s maid, and Jane Prescott is a lady’s maid in need of a position.  The family is trying to break into New York City high society but is seen as “from Scarsdale,” an unimportant suburb outside the city, while Jane, due to her previous jobs, knows everything that such people need to learn about living among the “Four Hundred” in 1910 Manhattan.

The two Benchley sisters, Louise and Charlotte, couldn’t be more different.  Louise is the older sister, anxious, plain, and extremely shy; the younger Charlotte is outgoing, very pretty, and determined to find what she considers her rightful place in society.  This she does with lightening speed, thanks in part to her father’s wealth as well as her own determination:  she steals Norrie Newsome, the handsome but dissolute scion of another New York family, from Bea Tyler, the young woman it was always assumed he would marry.

Charlotte tells her family about her secret engagement to Norrie, which she says will be announced publicly at the grand Christmas Eve ball that the Newsomes are giving.  The Newsome family consists of the father, Robert, multi-millionaire owner of the Shickshinny mine; his second wife, Rose, who is younger than his son; the above-mentioned Norrie; and Lucinda, the daughter who had been a schoolmate of Rose’s at the posh private school they’d attended in Pennsylvania.

Things at the ball do not go according to plan, however.   After hearing about a fight between Charlotte and Bea, Jane goes in search of Charlotte but instead nearly falls over the dead and brutalized body of Norrie Newsome in the mansion’s library.  Everyone at the house is presumed to be innocent due to their high social position, and the police begin looking at the local anarchists who allegedly have been sending threatening notes to Robert Newsome, owner of the above-mentioned mine where a cave-in disaster had recently killed eight boys under the age of ten.

A Death of No Importance is an insightful view into a time, more than a century ago, that shows the huge divide between the haves and the have-nots, a scene that is all too familiar today.  The members of the “Four Hundred” live in incredible luxury, with housekeepers, maids, and chauffeurs, and New York City policemen patrol their streets to keep out the riff raff; the poverty-stricken live on the Lower East Side, half dozen to a room in cold-water flats, with outdoor lavatories, inadequate and rotten food, and thieves and pickpockets on every corner.  This dichotomy is what has led to the anarchists’ violent actions across the country and the fear that the wealthy have of them. 

You can read more about Mariah Fredericks at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.