Emma Cross, a society reporter and poorer Vanderbilt relation, borders on respectability with her re-styled gowns and a summer cottage inherited from a forward-thinking aunt. It is 1895 and Alice and Cornelius Vanderbilt II are re-opening their summer cottage, The Breakers.
When one of Cornelius’ business associates is murdered and Emma’s brother is arrested, everyone but Emma ignores the possibility of another suspect within the hundreds of guests. Emma winnows down the choices in this rousing who-dunnit, the first of a new series by debut author, Alyssa Maxwell.
Maxwell, a history lover who married into an old Newport family, recreates the dynamic relationships within the Vanderbilt household. The cobblestone streets and beach mansions of Newport become the setting for family intrigues and murder. A subplot introduces Emma’s potential romantic partners if they can match her independence and sense of adventure which frequently get her intro trouble.
Emma must grow into getting out of scrapes on her own if the series reader is to believe in her plausibility as an independent detective. Emma’s investigation will keep you guessing who is responsible for the Murder on the Breakers, all the way to its clever, semi-comical ending.
This review first appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Historical Novel Society. A copy of the book was provided for the purpose of a review.