Although born into a socially prominent family, widowed Sarah Brand works as a mid-wife in 1896 New York. Delivering the baby of a boardinghouse owner, she is surprised to find a young girl staying there who strongly resembles an old friend of hers.

When she returns to the boarding house two days later to check on her patient, she is shocked to discover that the young girl she had seen was murdered at the boardinghouse the day before. Sorting through the girls belongings with police sergeant Frank Malloy, she discovers that the murdered girl was Alicia VanDamm, 16, pregnant, and the younger sister of Sarahs old friend.

The VanDamm patriarch fears a scandal and doesnt want the case solved, but Malloy is a rarity: an honest NYC cop. There is also the question of Sarah, who is both moved and repulsed by Alicias tragedy.

Although VanDamm has Malloy removed from the case, he cant stop Sarah from becoming involved. Sarah and Malloy do not care for each other, but the only way to solve the case is to combine Sarahs blue blood connections with Malloys street smarts. Working together they create quite a team. However, neither is prepared for the horrible truth behind Alices death.

Reminiscent of Anne Perry, MURDER ON ASTOR PLACE is one of the most spellbinding debuts Ive ever come across. The setting is beautifully-drawn, and Thompson shows a steady hand at creating human drama. The sexual tension between Malloy and Brandt is palpable. This is a bravura performance that will leave you impatient for the next installment. (May, 288 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg