A historical mystery in the vein of The Alienist, in which a young woman in Gilded Age New York must use a special talent to unravel a deadly conspiracy.
Amelia Matthew has done the all-but-impossible, especially for an orphan in Gilded Age New York City. Along with her foster brother Jonas, she has parleyed her modest psychic talent into a safe and comfortable life. But safety and comfort vanish when a head injury leaves Amelia with a dramatically-expanded gift. After she publicly channels an angry spirit, she finds herself imprisoned in the notorious insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island. As Jonas searches for a way to free her, Amelia struggles to control her disturbing new abilities and survive a place where cruelty and despair threaten her sanity.
Andrew Cavanaugh is familiar with despair. In the wake of a devastating loss, he abandons a promising medical career—and his place in Philadelphia society—to devote himself to the study and treatment of mental disease. Miss Amelia Matthew is just another patient—until she channels a spirit in front of him and proves her gift is real.
When a distraught mother comes to Andrew searching for her missing daughter—a daughter she believes is being hidden at the asylum—he turns to Amelia. Together, they uncover evidence of a deadly conspiracy, and then it’s no longer just Amelia’s sanity and freedom at stake. Amelia must master her gift and use it to catch a killer—or risk becoming the next victim.
Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, the words and opinions below are my own.
What was the Gilded Age like for those not fortunate enough to be members of The Four Hundred? In her debut novel, Stacie Murphy describes a view far removed from the ballrooms of excess. Amelia and Jonas only rub shoulders with New York City’s wealthy males when they patronize the private club where they work. Amelia makes a living spinning fortunes with the aid of an unusual gift and keen observation. But their lives change when Amelia comes to Jonas’ aid during a fight. The repercussions of a head injury eventually send her to the insane asylum, made infamous by Nellie Bly’s reporting six years previously. There she discovers what many people don’t realize: that wealthy some men send their wives there as an excuse to be rid of them.
A Deadly Fortune is neither an easy read, nor a pretty one. The inhabitants of the asylum are not well treated, and Murphy adds to the deplorable conditions with her murder plot. Some of the women are genuinely insane, and the language one of them utters may be shocking to some readers. Murphy’s fictional doctors have differing views on how to treat the female inmates, opinions that were both the norm and forward thinking for the time. Jonas’ personal relationship may also raise a few eyebrows but was not unheard of at the latter part of the 19th century.
If I had to describe A Deadly Fortune in terms of genres, I’d call it a supernatural feminist historical thriller. There are only minor elements of romance, but there is a definite something between Amelia and Andrew despite the differences in social standing. I felt the ending was an opening for the main characters to continue their lives in either a sequel or a series. Murphy’s website also hints at more to come by describing her as the “Author of the Amelia Matthew Mysteries.” I shall look forward to reading them.
Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Publication Date: 05 January 2021
Stacie Murphy grew up near Nashville, TN. She began writing A Deadly Fortune in 2017 as a way to force herself to stay off Twitter in the evenings. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and the worst cat in the world.
Stacie Murphy’s Website https://staciemurphy.com/