July 28, 2015
Second Street Station, by Lawrence H. Levy
Mary Handley is a not your typical late-nineteenth century lady. She’s fiery, clever, daring—and she’s not about to conform to the gender norms of the day. Not long after being fired from her job at the hat factory for insubordinate behavior, Mary finds herself at the murder scene of Charles Goodrich, the brother of a prominent alderman and former bookkeeper of Thomas Edison. When Mary proves her acumen as a sleuth, she is hired by the Brooklyn police department—as the city’s first female policewoman—to solve the crime. The top brass of the department expect her to fail, but Mary has other plans. As she delves into the mystery, she finds herself questioning the likes of J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla. Mary soon discovers the key to solving the case goes well beyond finding a murderer and depends on her ability to unearth the machinations of the city’s most prominent and respected public figures, men who will go to great lengths to protect their secrets. Much like Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and Maisie Dobbs, Second Street Station presents a portrait of a world plunging into modernity through the eyes of a clever female sleuth. Mary Handley is an unforgettable protagonist whose wit, humor, and charm will delight readers from the very first page.
The odd computer-generated cover caused me pause when I saw it on Blogging For Books, but I’m a fan of some historical fiction, so I decided to give it a shot. Mary Handley would fit in just fine in today’s society, but in the 19th century, she would’ve been considered brash, abrupt, and definitely not lady-like.
The merging of the fictional character, Mary, and many real period-specific people was smooth and the interactions were believable. I was a little confused at first with the sequence of events in the first two chapters, but once I figured it all out I was all-in. Smart and clever women are a rarity in literature, so I was pleased to read the exploits of Mary Handley, and I look forward to the next book due out in January 2016.
There were a scene or two that failed the suspension of disbelief, namely ricocheting bullets and wardrobe sequences, but they were a minor affront. The best thing that Mary Handley has over Sherlock Holmes is that she’s tougher, more fun, and less cerebral.
Awarding four out of five stars is easy and I hope to read more from this author.
Lawrence H. Levy is a highly regarded film and TV writer who is a Writers Guild Award winner and two-time Emmy nominee. He has written for various hit TV shows such as Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, Roseanne, and Seinfeld. Second Street Station is his debut novel and Brooklyn on Fire is his second book.