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Posted on Sep 28, 2016 in BookPage Reviews

Book of the Day: “A Deadly Affection” by Cuyler Overholt

In three mysteries set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—an era full of misconceptions about “the fairer sex”—women of action match wits with philandering villains, escaped cons and dodgy doctors.

There’s a good deal of “I know it in my bones” sleuthing in Kate Saunders’ The Secrets of Wishtide, first in a new historical mystery series set in the Dickensian England of the 1850s. Middle-aged widow Laetitia “Letty” Rodd fancies herself a private investigator of sorts, and she works with her brother, Frederick, a criminal barrister, to sort out the follies and indiscretions that originate with folks of the well-respected “gentler” classes. Wishtide is full of secrets, as the “nicer” ladies and gentlemen mix it up in all manner of seductions and clandestine affairs—clearly with no respect to class. Shadowy marriages and alliances run amok as the feisty sleuth sets out to investigate and perhaps prevent an undesirable love match, and ends up unmasking an evasive murderer known as Prince, who may have lived more than his share of lives.

Amy Stewart (Girl Waits with Gun) continues the fictional adventures of Miss Constance Kopp in Lady Cop Makes Trouble. Constance is based on a real woman who, just prior to World War I, became a deputy sheriff in New Jersey, one of the first of her kind in the country. And yes, she does make trouble. Escaped convicts don’t stand a chance against this adventurous woman, as Stewart crafts a heady brew of mystery and action in a fast-moving, craftily written novel that’s fueled by actual news headlines of the day. While serving as a matron for women prisoners in the Bergen County jail, Constance has a bad day when the electricity fails during a thunderstorm and an inmate escapes. Constance tracks down the bad guy, all the while fielding complaints from the male citizenry that revolver-totin’ women in law enforcement will just “turn into little men.”

Cuyler Overholt’s debut mystery, A Deadly Affection, is set in 1907 New York City and features an uncommon protagonist, Dr. Genevieve Summerford, an early practitioner—and a woman to boot—in the burgeoning field of psychiatry, a discipline not yet fully accepted as a legitimate medical field. One of her patients is arrested for murder, and though she claims she’s innocent, Genevieve fears that her own advice may have prompted the young woman to dangerous actions. She bends all her efforts toward discovering the real murderer, and in the process uncovers a complicated web of family stories involving questions of parentage, illegal adoption and genetically transmitted disease. Her investigations bring her face-to-face with Simon Shaw, an influential Tammany politician—and the man who stole her heart years ago. Overholt’s story is a winning combination of intrigue and romance.

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This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage.

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