With the help of a charitable lady of means, midwife Sarah Brandt rescues a young woman and her newborn from the brothel where the mother was forced to prostitute herself. But their success comes at a high price when their benefactor is found murdered.
Though the brothel’s madam is immediately considered a suspect, Sarah and Sergeant Frank Malloy investigate, uncovering some unpleasant truths about the victim and her charity-and the woman and child Sarah risked her own life to save.
Fun fact: (actually not fun at all, pretty terrible if you ask me) in late 19th century New York, when charitable organizations really began to take off with society folk, there was a register in which your name was recorded if you received any charitable contributions from an organization so that you couldn’t receive it from any other. The leaders of these organizations believed that only the “worthy” poor should be eligible to receive assistance, and most were turned away due to something deemed inappropriate by the charities. These people believed that poorness bred laziness and if they were given assistance, they would lack the drive to work in order to better themselves. Meanwhile, people were working in factories for 12 hours a day and barely making enough to survive.
This book highlights how many women turned to prostitution, not because of immorality, but because it came down to this: prostitution or starvation. And these women were turned away because they were seen to be unworthy.
Victoria Thompson has once again done her research and it shows. In addition to another well-plotted mystery and whodunnit, she has once again managed to teach me something of these times.