Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Boston, 1890s


The White Crow

by Cynthia Peale

When the lights go on during a seance held by the society medium Mrs. Sidgwick, philanthropist Theophilus Clay is found to have been murdered. In attendance, and indeed sitting right next to him, is Caroline Ames who with her brother, Addington, is drawn into solving this murder, and the subsequent deaths and threats to their lives.

Caroline is given little to do in this story given the social limitations on a well bred Boston Brahim woman. The plot’s action falls instead on her brother and their border, Dr. MacKenzie. Readers also may lament the fate of those of Caroline’s class who have fallen beyond the bounds of propriety set by Boston’s chilly social class.

The book’s historical background is better served. Numerous Boston personalities appear, in particular William James and Isabella Stewart Gardner. The growing threat to Yankee power by the Irish community is touched on, as is the onset of a new age initiated by inventions and technologies, including plans for an underground railroad. One new household devise, the telephone, plays a key role in the story.

Peale also takes us on wonderful treks through the Boston streets, gardens, waterways, cemeteries, restaurants, clubs, and Beacon Hill homes. A tour today of the Victorian era Nicoll house (home of Rose Nicoll, suffragist, international peace supporter, and first female U.S. landscape designer) can give you a feel for Caroline’s residence.

This is one in the Caroline and Addington Ames Beacon Hill series.



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