The sound of weeping meets midwife Sarah Brandt’s ears when she visits a pregnant patient in the Little Germany area of New York City in this second installment of Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight mystery series, Murder on St. Mark’s Place. The wailing is not due to hard labor, however, but rather the murder of Gerda, the sister of Mrs. Otto, Sarah's patient. Gerda was a typical immigrant girl working long hours in a factory for low wages. Gerda's red shoes were what set her apart from the other working girls.
To help ease Mrs. Otto’s mind, Sarah offers to contact her policeman friend, Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy and ask him to investigate. When she finally speaks with Malloy, he has already heard of the murder, the girl with the red shoes. As a young woman, the police believe Gerda was out partying every night, and since there are no witnesses, Malloy believes the killer will never be found. Sarah cannot believe the police would not investigate just because the victim was poor and had the reputation of giving away her favors for a token gift, such as the red shoes. Sarah decides to investigate herself.
At Gerda's funeral, Sarah mets three of Gerda's friends: Bertha, Hetty and Lisle. The girls tell Sarah that Gerda is not the first young party girl that has been beaten severely and left in an alley for dead. There have been three other girls before her. Armed with the information that there may be a serial killer on the loose, Sarah convinces Malloy to investigate. Reviewing the slim murder investigation files, Malloy begins Interviewing their families. He obtains a picture of one of the deceased girls showing her on a boat ride at Coney Island. The picture is similer to one Sarah has obtained of Gerda. Sarah and Malloy take a trip to Coney Island to look for, and discover clues, to the girls murderer
They eventually uncover three prime suspects: a young man giving his name as George Smith, a dance hall patron named Will, Sarah’s childhood friend Dirk Schyler? When at last the suspect realizes Sarah knows the truth of what hw did, he tries to silence her as well. Mrs. Ellsworth, Sarah's nosy neighbor, comes to Sarah's rescue welding her cast iron skillet. The suspect is placed in prison and all of the murders are solved. When Malloy is finally called to the scene, he is furious over the close call Sarah had and annoyed with himself over how much he has begun to care for Sarah.
Sarah and Malloy, and comical neighbor Mrs. Ellsworth, make for entertaining reading. The twists and turns of the mystery make this a fun read. Enjoy.