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BookBrowse Reviews A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

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A Death of No Importance

A Mystery

by Mariah Fredericks

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks X
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 288 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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A murder mystery set in the heart of a changing turn of the century New York.

Bringing the reader deep into the intrigue and privilege of the most elite boudoirs, A Death of No Importance is a charming, fast-paced mystery set in turn-of-the century New York. Seen through the eyes and ears of an observant chamber maid, Jane Prescott, the murder of the city's most eligible bachelor shakes New York high society to its core. As Jane, determined to protect her mistress, digs deep into the shadowy corners of the most illustrious homes, she finds a mystery much more sinister than she imagined.

Whether you are a fan of mystery novels or not, A Death of No Importance is a highly engaging read. Jane is a delightful protagonist – brilliant and attentive, loyal and kind – and she finds friends and helpers everywhere she goes. She is a skillful guide to the elite homes and families she encounters. The story picks up quickly from the first page. The action is never-ending and each chapter ends with a suggestive hook, urging you to read on. And even though this technique becomes quickly predictable, it continues to entertain. The resolution is not quite obvious but the mystery itself is fairly straight-forward. The board is set and all the relevant players are in motion within the first fifty pages. There are many familiar tropes – a jilted lover, a newly risen socialite with something to prove, and a spoiled rich boy with many enemies. However, it is pleasurable to watch the layers peel back to reveal the truth – it is done with an almost mechanical precision, new details revealed at every turn.

In addition to this well-structured plot, Fredericks brings a bit of social commentary into her narrative. The stories of the rich are balanced, to some extent, with those of the struggling workers around them; on the outskirts of the story there is a band of anarchists, looking to strike and make themselves heard. There is also Jane's uncle, a reverend devoted to the care and rehabilitation of "fallen women." And Jane herself – devoted to her work, yet always wanting something more than a life of servitude – exemplifies the class struggles at play. While these side stories do not surface anything unknown or revolutionary, they do make for a more nuanced portrayal of the story's time and place.

A Death of No Importance is a simple, clean-cut mystery that yields easily to anyone in search of a satisfying read. A shrewd and exacting reader may find "holes" in the plot – for example, the facility with which everyone seems to open up, or the level of access a lady's maid seems to have to everyone and everything she seeks – but for those willing to suspend disbelief, this is a great way to spend a few hours and maybe even learn something about the New York of a different time.

Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2018, and has been updated for the April 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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