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I am delighted to share my thoughts today about
Murder at the Elms by Alyssa Maxwell
Murder at the Elms (A Gilded Newport Mystery)
by Alyssa Maxwell
About Murder at the Elms
Murder at the Elms (A Gilded Newport Mystery)
Historical Cozy Mystery
11th in Series
Setting – Rhode Island
Kensington (August 22, 2023)
Hardcover : 304 pages
ISBN-10 : 1496736192
ISBN-13 : 978-1496736192
Digital ASIN : B0BNCLTC7P
As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder arrives, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood in the latest installment of this bestselling cozy historical mystery series . . .
1901: Back from their honeymoon in Italy, Emma and Derrick are adapting to married life as they return to their duties at their jointly owned newspaper, the Newport Messenger. The Elms, coal baron Edward Berwind’s newly completed Bellevue Avenue estate, is newsworthy for two reasons: A modern mansion for the new century, it is one of the first homes in America to be wired for electricity with no backup power system, generated by coal from Berwind’s own mines. And their servants—with a single exception—have all gone on strike to protest their working conditions. Summarily dismissing and replacing his staff with cool and callous efficiency, Berwind throws a grand party to showcase the marvels of his new “cottage.”
Emma and Derrick are invited to the fete, which culminates not only in a fabulous musicale but an unforeseen tragedy—a chambermaid is found dead in the coal tunnel. In short order, it is also discovered that a guest’s diamond necklace is missing and a laborer has disappeared.
Detective Jesse Whyte entreats Emma and Derrick to help with the investigation and determine whether the murdered maid and stolen necklace are connected. As the dark deeds cast a shadow over the blazing mansion, it’s up to Emma to shine a light on the culprit . . .
Newport, Rhode Island, 1901 – Coal Baron Edward Berwind’s Belleview Avenue estate, The Elms is complete. It is one of the first homes in America dependent on electricity thanks to the coal from Berwind’s mines. He can’t wait to show it off and invites the elite including newlyweds Emma and Derrick, to an extraordinary affair that includes a wondrous musicale. Emma was able to get a little sneak peek when she was covering a story for her Newport Messenger. All but one of the staff had gone on strike claiming the terrible working conditions at the modern mansion. Berwind didn’t put up with their ire. He fired them and they will all be replaced, hopefully before his party.
When Emma and Derrick arrive at the gathering they can see the home is understaffed but the new employees are doing their best. Emma noticed the one employee that failed to strike is nowhere to be found. They learn a bit later that there has been a death. The young chambermaid Emma was looking for has been found in the coal tunnel, dead. Soon, it is learned that a guest’s diamond necklace has disappeared and so has another of The Elms laborers.
When Detective Jesse Whyte arrives on the scene he asks Emma and Derrick for help finding out if the young woman was murdered and if her death and the missing necklace are connected and if the missing laborer may be the one responsible for both.
Isn’t that cover gorgeous!
Another “cottage” from the Gilded Age, The Elms is modeled after an 18th-century French chateau but features the newest technology of the Gilded Age costing about 1.4 million dollars to build. It is the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind, whose fortune was made in the coal industry, and the perfect place for the setting of a murder and a theft. The author has done a lot of research and she gives her readers detailed descriptions of the mansion, and the inhabitants and visitors. It is always special to learn some true history while reading these stories and that real people join the fictional characters.
Emma and Derrick have just returned from their honeymoon and are adjusting to working together as man and wife and trying to live at both their homes. Nanny and Katie would prefer them to spend all of their time at Gull Manor but Emma is a little nervous about living there with Derrick. Emma is also learning how her going off on her own to investigate affects her new husband. The biggest adjustment may be that now she is actually part of the 400. She still has a huge heart and wants to help women in need and neither Derrick or their status will never change that. Their longtime friend, Detective Jesse Whyte, seems to have established a pecking order with his partner Detective Myers, and makes it known that Emma and Derrick need to help with this current investigation. I love that these core characters all continue to develop realistically. Marriage changes relationships all around and Ms. Maxwell addresses that so well.
The mystery was complex and some twists and turns really were surprising. We are introduced to several new characters in the Berwind’s guests and they are all flawed and some are very ruthless. While Emma and Derrick are more modern thinking, most of them are not. The Berwinds don’t appreciate Emma asking questions, going so far as to encourage Derrick to reel her in. And all these guests are suspects and they all seem to be hiding something. Emma and Derrick chase all over following clues. Many times what they find only gives them more questions. When all the clues fall into place Emma is again in danger. I do love her tenaciousness. There truly is never a dull moment when Emma is chasing down a story or when she is trying to catch a killer.
My only disappointment with the story is that Derrick and Emma’s wedding and honeymoon took place between books. It is discussed and readers are given some important information about where it was held, who attended and who didn’t, where they went on their honeymoon, and who they visited with. Thankfully, no murder mysteries were involved.
Murder at the Elms is a wonderfully entertaining historical mystery with marvelous characters that remain fresh and continue to grow through each new story. I am looking forward to the next book in the series for another trip back in time to Newport. Until next year…
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About Alyssa Maxwell
Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a fiction author. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband have make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the South Florida Fiction Writers.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”