I’m a nut about historical fiction, so when I came across the first in a mystery series about life among the rich and famous in late 19th century America, I was hooked. Murder at the Breakers, by Alyssa Maxwell, is easy mystery reading at its best.
Fictional protagonist Emma Cross is a second or third cousin to New York industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt. Her parents have moved abroad to be artists and have left Emma in the hands of the Vanderbilt family. While fairly distantly related, she is considered a member of the family and invited to all social activities among the rich who have their vacation homes in Newport, RI. The Vanderbilt home is called the Breakers.
The Breakers actually exists, and was really the vacation home of the Vanderbilt family in the late 19th Century. In fact, many of the rich New York Industrialists had homes in this area, so the fictional series is set in fact.
In this novel, Emma is attending the coming out party of the daughter of Cornelius and Alice Vanderbilt – a party that is documented to have actually taken place. However, in this fictional story, Mr. Vanderbilt’s financial advisor is murdered. Emma’s brother is found drunk and passed out in the bedroom from which the murdered financier was pushed, and quickly becomes Suspect No. 1.
Emma sets out to prove that her brother was not the murderer, and comes across a variety of interesting characters in the process.
The story reminded me much of Rhys Bowen’s fun “Her Royal Spyness” series in which the protagonist is 34th or 35th in line to become Queen of England. The main characters are alike in that, while distantly related to royalty (actual or perceived), they are nearly paupers. The series are both fairly light-hearted mysteries with elements of romance.
I recommend Murder at the Breakers to anyone who is a fan of mysteries but not interested in dark and sinister storylines. I found the book highly entertaining, despite the fact that I figured out the perpetrator early on in the book. But, after all, I read A LOT of mysteries.
Here is a link to the book.