cover image Murder at Ochre Court

Murder at Ochre Court

Alyssa Maxwell. Kensington, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0336-1

Maxwell’s diffuse sixth Gilded Newport mystery (after 2017’s Murder at Chateau sur Mer) takes reporter Emma Cross back to Newport, R.I., after a year in New York, where she unsuccessfully tried to break out of society reporting into hard news. Her first assignment at home is the coming-out ball of 19-year-old Cleo Cooper-Smith, which is being hosted by Cleo’s aunt, May Goelet, at lavish Ochre Court. Mrs. Goelet hopes to showcase her protégé in an elaborate tableau vivant featuring the debutante as Cleopatra on a throne illuminated by electric bulbs, still a costly innovation in 1898. Instead, an electric shock kills Cleo and sends Dale Hanson, who wired the scene, and police officer Jesse Whyte to the hospital. Emma decides to investigate to prove Dale was not at fault and to help Jesse, her would-be suitor, during his recovery. Maxwell dramatically depicts the era’s contentious transition from gaslight to electricity, but the main plot sags under a glut of overcomplicated subplots and a melodramatic, implausible conclusion. Series fans will enjoy following Emma’s changing circumstances. [em]Agent: Evan Marshall, Evan Marshall Agency. (Aug.) [/em]