“Coney Island,” Lazlo remarked. “It’s where intelligence and human decency go to die.” (p30)
The third in the Mary Handley series. By chapter 3 I knew I needed to get the first two, it’s that entertaining. Fortunately, one doesn’t need to have read the first books to keep up with the plot of Last Stop in Brooklyn.
Mary Handley, Victorian era detective in Brooklyn, breaks all the stereotypical rules about how women should behave. As her mother frequently reminds her, nice women get married and have a family. They don’t traipse around Brooklyn as private detectives, solving crimes and speaking her mind to the Manhattan rich.
It starts simply as a case of possible adultery. A friend of her mother’s son is concerned that his wife is cheating on him. Using familial pressure, Elizabeth convinces Mary to take the case. Which leads her to Coney Island, the last stop on the train in Brooklyn.
In her ten days of following Colleen Murphy, Mary notices that she too is being followed and confronts her tail. Who, it turns out, is the brother of a man wrongly convicted of killing a prostitute in a similar fashion to Jack the Ripper.
Mary agrees to take on the case which leads her through New York police department corruption fed by money from the rich and powerful who run the stock market like Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller.
Mary’s quest to prove Colleen’s infidelity (or not), and Ameer Ben Ali’s innocence takes her to the seedier part of Coney Island where racism, sexism, and violence live cheek by jowl, rarely noticed but ever-present.
My favorite kind of books are the kind which entwine history with fictive, but believable, history. Levy does not disappoint in this regard. However, I did find the plot wandered as though Levy were trying to get his bearings, or to fit too much in before then end. And there were a few times when I was shocked out of the story by Mary’s profane language, and actions which didn’t seem to fit her character or the times.
Despite that, I’d gladly spend another day reading the further adventures of Mary Handley.