Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

Brooklyn on Fire
I enjoy a book with a plucky heroine, even more so in historical novels than contemporary ones. Spunk is easy to come by in the modern world where nobody blinks at a woman with a nontraditional career. Not so much in 1890 when society relegated all females to second-class status with only a minuscule chance of escaping the dictates of rigid class structure. The heroine, Mary Handley, is a nice fictional addition. Sacked from the police force for her less than condescending attitude, Mary works in a bookstore and sets up a consulting private detective business on the side. Readers should note Brooklyn on Fire is the second book in the Mary Handley series, but works as a stand-alone story. I didn’t read book one and had no trouble following the plot. Levy makes enough references to Mary’s earlier exploits so that her family and relationship with the Brooklyn Police Department are easily understood in context.

In Brooklyn on Fire, a woman hires Mary to look into the possible murder of her uncle that happened years ago. When her client is later found dead, Mary follows a twisted trail of clues in the search for justice. She tangles with the Brooklyn political machine, upper class New York society, the local police, and her own family. Mary’s investigations eventually lead down the murky path of government corruption and into an interesting subplot that involves securing a water supply for Brooklyn.

The pages of Brooklyn on Fire are strewn with details of historical events and real people from the 1890s. Levy has a flair for describing rough-and-tumble life at the end of the nineteenth century. He mixes fiction and history in an entertaining way in order to depict the power struggles between the men who ran Brooklyn before it became part of New York City. The metropolitan area was a dangerous place, especially for a woman who pokes her nose into criminal activities. Luckily, our determined heroine also knows ju-jitsu.

Quibbles and Bits
Let’s face it, Mary’s romance with a Vanderbilt is a stretch. No matter how plucky the heroine, it’s not likely the two could ever have had even a short-lived relationship, let alone travel together in the Victorian Era as they do in the book. Also, in a novel with a large cast of characters, both Mary’s brother and another man are named Sean. Two people with the same name in a book always bugs me. These criticisms are minor, and any reader with an interest in historical fiction should check out Mary Handley’s adventures.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review. 

No comments:

Post a Comment