MURDER AT OCHRE COURT
By Alyssa Maxwell
In the summer of 1898, reporter Emma Cross has made a big decision—to leave NYC and a disappointing stint as a society columnist for the Herald and come home to Newport, Rhode Island. Emma’s tired of reporting on the hijinks of wealthy relatives like her cousins, the Vanderbilts. She wants to write real news stories like her idol, famed newspaperwoman Nellie Bly.
Instead, her first assignment is to cover the coming-out party for debutante Cleo Cooper-Smith, the social event of the season at one of Newport’s “summer cottages” overlooking the ocean, Ochre Court. Cleo will be presented in a unique manner; garbed as Cleopatra, she’ll be the star of an elaborate living tableau, and her throne will be lit by recently installed modern electricity. As Cleo ascends to her throne, the ballroom is plunged into darkness. When the lights come back on, Cleo still sits on her throne, electrocuted to death.
The authorities quickly establish that the wiring on the throne was tampered with, and blame a local electrician for the death. But Emma thinks otherwise. And the array of eligible suspects is as numerous as the sand on Newport’s beach, ranging from a shady real estate developer who claims to be Cleo’s fiancée to Cleo’s neglected sister to the mother of a spurned suitor.
Emma is fortunate to have the trust of a member of Newport’s police force, her childhood friend Jesse Whyte, who asks Emma to use her unique connections to help. Emma senses this story could be her big break into reporting real news, and eagerly accepts. When an incendiary device is thrown through the window of her home and starts a fire, Emma realizes she’s getting very close. But at what cost to those she loves?
“Murder At Ochre Court” is the sixth in Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport Mystery series. A satisfying and intelligent story peppered with real characters and settings. Great reading, especially for history buffs like me.