Published: August 4, 2015
Obtained via: Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address: Gina Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com
Deanna Randolph and her family arrive in Newport, Rhode Island for the summer. Her coming out in New York was marred ever so slightly by her intended, Joe Baldwin, ending their engagement before it ever came to be. Her mother, a bastion of propriety is determined that the second coming out, there in Newport, will be perfect. Deanna will be engaged by the end of summer or her mother will know why. Meanwhile, Deanna and her maid, Elspeth, seek to escape, in a way, by reading their favorite dime novels and in particular the sleuth, Miss Golet.
Her childhood friend, who became her beau, Joe, wants more out of life than society and rich friends. His true passion is in his inventions and to that end he has set up shop in the Fifth Ward where he lives and works among the, as some might call your average working people, the hoi paloi. Still, he is close to his family, at least his Gran Gwen and tries his best to walk the line between the Cottagers, as the rich of Newport are known, and his need to invent. He feels bad that he, in essence, jilted Deanna, but he also knew that neither was ready for a marriage engineered by their parents—a marriage that would have wedded their sugar business for posterity.
In a community as small as Newport in the summer it would be hard for Joe and Deanna to go through the entire season without seeing each other and being thrown together at various parties. But at the first party of the season, something goes terribly wrong when one of the house maids of Seacrest is found dead at the bottom of the cliff overlooking the ocean. The rich are protected by their own and a few greased palms here and there. The poor are immediately considered the guilty parties. And because the dead maid died holding an envelope with her beau’s name on it, he is immediately suspect. Before long, however, it comes out that Joe may have been the last person to see her alive. While the rich may well look out for their own, Joe is out of favour. Deanna cannot believe he would commit such an act and against his and the police’s admonitions to stay out of it, she, along with Elspeth, begin their own investigation into the murder. When a second maid is found dead in much the same way, suspicion falls even more heavily on Joe and Deanna becomes even more determined to prove his innocence. Can she do that and find the killer before the killer finds her?
A GILDED GRAVE is Shelley Freydont’s foray into historical mystery and gives readers a stay-up-at-night reading page turner. While it is mainly a historical mystery she has some elements you find in lighter cozies through Gran Gwen and some of Deanna and Elspeth’s antics. Without those elements the story would be wonderful; with them there are additional layers making A GILDED GRAVE a fuller read. There is also some romance, and not just between Joe and Deanna, but also between some of the other couples. And, there are also some elements of a nicely done gothic in some of the later scenes. Rather than have a mishmash of styles and genres Freydont brings them together in a fabulous read. They aren’t disjointed “here is a cozy chapter”, “here is a gothic” chapter, but a really nice blending of the different genres making for one of the best reads this year.
Between the parties and other social engagements, descriptions of the new inventions, clothing styles and descriptions of the “cottages” Freydont bring Newport of the late 1800’s to life. Her words paint such a marvellous picture of the buildings as well as the landscaping around them. There is one scene where Deanna is looking over a cliff and senses rather than sees someone watching her. You know exactly how she feels when that scene unfolds and it’s definitely a feeling of wanting to sleep with the lights on. When she talks about the summer heat you know what it’s like to have the sweat trickle down your back and how refreshing a cold glass of lemonade is when you sit back to enjoy it.
The characters are very true to life. Even with some of Deanna and Elspeth’s seemingly over-the-top sleuthing there is a sense of reality about what they are doing. The lines drawn by society are clear and the way the two women navigate them is nicely done. The relationship between Deanna and Joe is also a high point—they still have feelings for each other, but there is a fine line between the lifelong friendship they had and the broken almost-engagement between the two of them.
There is so much to the book and each element recommends it to be added to the top of your must reads. I can’t wait for book 2 to come my way.
This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.