Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell takes place in Newport, RI in August 1895 among the elite of society, centered around the Vanderbilt family. Emma Cross, a poor relation of the Vanderbilt family but recognized by them for her heritage and bloodline, works to support herself as a society page journalist. Then one night she attends the coming-out ball of her cousin at the home of her second cousin Cornelius Vanderbilt, the family patriarch, when Cornelius’s secretary plunges to his death right at Emma’s feet. And Emma’s brother Brady lies passed out with an empty bottle of bourbon and the stolen plans to a railroad venture next to him in the very room from which the secretary has fallen. With this evidence against Brady, the police immediately arrest him, and it will be up to Emma to put to use her investigative skills in order to clear her brother’s name.
This book follows Emma’s threads of investigation as she tails her suspects and gets threatened for snooping. Everyone, including her own family, seems ready to make Brady a scapegoat even when evidence suggests his potential innocence.
The book contains some interesting insight into life in 1895 elite society. We see the snobbish hierarchy of the individuals and just how people cannot move between classes and the minute details that influence the views of those like the Vanderbilts towards those around them.
My one concern about this book is the plethora of characters, which causes some confusion in keeping them straight. By the end I pretty much got them figured out, but especially earlier in the book I had trouble sorting out the various characters.
The audio edition of this book is narrated by Eva Kaminsky, who does a good job. Her performance fit in with the mood of the turn-of-the-century era. I do wonder if this book would have been easier for me to follow, particularly with the numerous characters, either read visually instead of audibly or perhaps with a different narrator. But since the book contains first person narration, I’m not sure that any of this confusion I experienced would have been any less with a different narrator.
I enjoyed this mystery that gives insight into late-19th century elite society. The book gives plenty of flavor from the era and an interesting mystery, with a drive to find the true criminal before Brady can be railroaded into being convicted of this crime. I give the book four stars.
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