Summary and book reviews of A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Through her exquisite prose, sharp observation and deft plotting, Mariah Fredericks invites us into the heart of a changing New York in her remarkable debut adult novel.

New York City, 1910. Invisible until she's needed, Jane Prescott has perfected the art of serving as a ladies' maid to the city's upper echelons. When she takes up a position with the Benchley family, dismissed by the city's elite as "new money", Jane realizes that while she may not have financial privilege, she has a power they do not - she understands the rules of high society. The Benchleys cause further outrage when their daughter Charlotte becomes engaged to notorious playboy Norrie, the son of the eminent Newsome family.

But when Norrie is found murdered at a party, Jane discovers she is uniquely positioned - she's a woman no one sees, but who witnesses everything; who possesses no social power, but that of fierce intellect - and therefore has the tools to solve his murder. There are many with grudges to bear: from the family Norrie was supposed to marry into, to the survivors of a tragic accident in a mine owned by the Newsomes, to the rising anarchists who are sick of those born into wealth getting away with anything they want. Jane also knows that in both high society and the city's underbelly, morals can become cheap in the wrong hands: scandal and violence simmer just beneath the surface - and can break out at any time.

1

I will tell it. I will tell it badly, forgetting things that are important and remembering things that never happened. In that, this narrative will be no different than any other. Only the specifics of what is forgotten and remembered will distinguish it as mine.

Why tell it at all, then—a story already so well known, concerning, as it does, wealthy families, a handsome couple, and murder?

Because the story you have heard is wrong. The headlines you've seen, the editorials bemoaning the sorry state of our modern world—all sincere and well intentioned. But since they did not know the truth of the matter, all quite beside the point.

Many decades have passed. There is no one now living who experienced that particular horror—except for myself. And who am I to claim to know the truth behind what may have been the first of the many Crimes of the Century?

Nobody. Less than nobody.

I was Charlotte Benchley's maid.

But before you dismiss my tale as a gain-inspired fantasy ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Jane begins her story by stating, "I will tell it. I will tell it badly, forgetting things that are important and remembering things that never happened." How do these first two sentences set up Jane's reliability as a narrator? Does Jane acknowledging her potentially faulty memory affect your trust in her positively or negatively?
  2. How does Jane's status as a servant impact her investigation?
  3. Who did you initially suspect was the murderer? Looking back, which clues pointed toward the killer, and which were red herrings?
  4. How does the relationship between Jane and Anna change throughout the book? Do you think Jane's friendship with Anna affects how she views the case?
  5. Jane begins her partnership ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review (474 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Booklist
Deftly woven...[An] intricate historical mystery and pointed commentary on human nature.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A sparkling mystery ... The novel's voice, plotting, pace, characterization, and historical background are all expertly crafted, while the resolution - which feels both surprising and convincing - will leave readers hungry for more.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Jane is an appealing amateur sleuth ... With its vivid depiction of contrasting worlds this series debut should appeal to readers of Alyssa Maxwell's 'Gilded Age' historical mysteries.

Author Blurb Meg Cabot
A Death of No Importance has such rich historic detail that you feel as if you've been transported to early twentieth century New York. Mariah Fredericks is the best at creating compulsively addictive, fresh, twisty reads.

Author Blurb Susan Elia MacNeal
Fredericks has written a taut, suspenseful, and complex murder mystery with gorgeous period detail.

Author Blurb Laura Joh Rowland
A sharp, engaging, and intimate treat of a historical mystery. Jane Prescott is a smart detective and a keen observer of both the upper crust and the dark underbelly of early twentieth century New York society.

Author Blurb Nancy Bilyeau
A suspenseful, moving, sharply observed mystery that illuminates a fascinating time in America's history, when there was indeed ugliness beneath the beauty of the Gilded Age.

Author Blurb Susan Elia MacNeal
A taut, suspenseful, and complex murder mystery with gorgeous period detail.

Reader Reviews

BeckyH

A good mystery with great characters
The backstairs folk always see more than the upper class folks think. Lady’s maid Jane sees and thinks. The writing is good with great characterization, good atmosphere, a realistic portrayal of time and place. Fredericks throws in some real people...   Read More

Michael Haughton

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks
I will start if with this excerpt from the first paragraph as it seem fitting to what I'm about to say about the writer's style of a so-called mystery book. Here goes This narrative will be no different than any other. Only the specifics of what ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Evelyn Nesbit and the "Trial of the Century"

Evelyn NesbitFor her novel, A Death of No Importance, Mariah Fredericks borrows heavily from the story of Evelyn Nesbit and the violence that surrounded her life. What exactly happened to Evelyn Nesbit and how did she come to be a part of the "Trial of the Century" as it later came to be known?

Nesbit was born Florence Evelyn Nesbit on December 25, 1884, in Tarentum, a small town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, her actual year of birth remains unconfirmed; her real year of birth may have been 1886. In later years, Nesbit confirmed that her mother at times added several years to her age in order to circumvent child labor laws. She was raised in extreme poverty after the death of her father. Although her mother and brother tried to make ends ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Mariah Fredericks

If you liked A Death of No Importance, try these:

  • Invisible City jacket

    Invisible City

    by Julia Dahl

    Published 2015

    About this book

    In her riveting debut Invisible City, journalist Julia Dahl introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage.

  • The Interpretation of Murder jacket

    The Interpretation of Murder

    by Jed Rubenfeld

    Published 2007

    About this book

    More books by this author

    In this ingenious, suspenseful historical thriller, Sigmund Freud is drawn into the mind of a sadistic killer who is savagely attacking Manhattan’s wealthiest heiresses

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hungry
    Hungry
    by Jeff Gordinier
    Noma, René Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, has widely been considered among the ...
  • Book Jacket: With the Fire on High
    With the Fire on High
    by Elizabeth Acevedo
    From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power ...
  • Book Jacket: Lanny
    Lanny
    by Max Porter
    At once beautifully poignant and hauntingly grotesque, Max Porter's Lanny is like an unexpected ...
  • Book Jacket
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beirut Hellfire Society
    by Rawi Hage

    A searing and visionary novel set in 1970s Beirut that asks what it means to live through war.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win In the Full Light of the Sun

New from Clare Clark!

"Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."
- Publishers Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A A A Day K T D A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.