Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy are back crime solving in Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson. This time, it is Sarah’s neighbor who is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Nelson Ellsworth is a quiet and shy man who lives with his mother next door to Sarah. Nelson asks Sarah to meet his girlfriend, Anna Blake, who has told him she is pregnant. He believes Sarah, as a midwife, can assist Anna in determining whether she really is pregnant and to plead his case. Nelson asked Anna to marry him, but she refused. Anna also refuses to speak with Sarah.
Sarah thinks no more about the situation until the next morning when Mrs. Ellsworth comes to her backdoor with the news that reporters are outside saying that Nelson has been arrested for the murder of Anna Blake. To calm Mrs. Ellsworth, Sarah promises to get Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy to investigate. When Sarah finds Malloy, he confirms that Nelson was arrested. Nelson declares his innocence, but no one believes his story and he is placed on leave from his position at a local bank. Mrs. Ellsworth is very worried, and Sarah vows that she and Malloy will find the real killer.
Although Malloy is not assigned to the case, he agrees to help Sarah and accompanies her to the boarding house where Anna lived. There they meet the landlord, Mr. Walcott, who denies any knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Anna’s death. He tells them his wife, out shopping at the moment, was home that night and may be able to tell them why Anna was outside in Washington Square late that night. Sarah speaks with the other roomer, Catherine Porter, while Malloy questions a man who barged into the boarding house looking for Anna Blake. Gilbert Giddings appears devastated when he learns Anna is dead. Malloy is suspicious of why Giddings would be so upset over Anna’s death. Suspecting more to the story than he is told, Malloy takes Giddings’ business card, planning to further investigate the situation. It is revealed that Catherine Porter was formerly an actress, but Sarah believes she is hiding something more.
A few members of the press continue to harass the Ellsworths’. To give one of the reporters something else to investigate, Malloy suggests he check into the fact that Anna may have been an actress. The reporter, Walter Prescott, goes to the threatre, and learns that Mr. Walcott hung around backstage and he enticed Anna, and then Catherine, to move into his home. He reports this to Malloy. Malloy’s suspicion of the Walcott home and its tenants become further provoked when there is an attempted murder on Prescott, leaving him in serious condition at the hospital. When Sarah goes to visit Prescott to learn who attempted to kill him, she finds a strange woman trying to feed Prescott what Sarah eventually learns is a fatal dose of opium.
Malloy learns from the coroner that Anna was not pregnant, and suspects that the Walcott’s are running a scheme with the girls to blackmail men by seducing them, then threatening to expose them to their wives if they don’t pay the money demanded to keep them quiet. Malloy and Sarah confront the Walcott’s and learn more than they expected to about the seedier side of some New York City residents.
Murder on Washington Square will keep the reader guessing until the last twist is revealed. Enjoy one of Victoria Thompson’s best in this novel.