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
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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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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 ...
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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...continued

Full Review (474 words).

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(Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

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

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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 ...

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