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Lies That Comfort and Betray by Rosemary Simpson

“Lies That Comfort and Betray” is the second in Rosemary Simpson’s “Gilded Age Mystery” series featuring socialite detective Prudence MacKenzie and her partner, former Pinkerton, Geoffrey Hunter. The mystery takes place in New York City of 1888 where murders that seem to mimic the MO of London’s Ripper occur with chilling regularity.? Once difference from the London Whitechapel cases is that the women being strangled and disemboweled are not all hookers, but rather church-going domestic servants, including one that often works for Miss MacKenzie.

After a tip is received from a homeless man with a delightfully perceptive mutt names Blossom, it becomes clear that the one common denominator is that all three women had been at confession at the same church (St. Anselm) shortly before being attacked.? In two cases the women are killed somewhere other than where they are left and in the case of the one prostitute who is murdered, she is left where she is killed in her room at a neighborhood brothel.

Are the police with the assistance of Hunter and MacKenzie facing the actual Jack the Ripper?? Is a priest involved and is the church covering up for a member of the clergy?? Is the serial killer the son of a prominent citizen? Is more than one suspect involved? The plot twists and turns leaving the reader convinced at one moment that it is one suspect and the next another seems most likely the one responsible.

As horrifyingly graphic as this tale is, the book was hard to put down until the killer is revealed and the characters the reader comes to care about are safe and sound.

A good read that reveals much historically about New York City in the Gilded Age and the seamier side of life for those in domestic service, trapped in prostitution or homelessness and how members of the clergy turned a blind eye to it all.? Recommended, but not for younger readers.

Liz Nichols

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