The Gilded Age is currently all the rage, so it is to be expected that this vibrant historical time would find its way into crime fiction. Readers should be delighted that their guide for this latest foray will be celebrated and award-winning author Mariah Fredericks. Step back into the past—New York City, circa 1911—with her newly-released The Wharton Plot.
As evidenced by the title, the heroine of The Wharton Plot is the American Writer (and first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize), Edith Wharton. Fans of Mariah Fredericks will not be surprised that—like with her previous novel, The Lindbergh Nanny—Fredericks has used a real crime as the inspiration for this story, however here she has taken more fictional liberties with the death of David Graham Phillips. That said, rest assured that the historical details and time-period ambiance of the book remain at Mariah Fredericks’ typical impeccable level.
Rumors abound that Mr. Phillips’ next novel would reveal the secrets of the many upper-class society denizens that populate Gilded Age New York, so when he is shot outside the Princeton Club, there are no shortage of suspects. Of course, with this being a mystery novel, Edith Wharton is going to get involved and help to investigate this crime before it can become a scandal.
By centering Edith Wharton—a fascinating and enigmatic woman who refused to be suppressed—the forward momentum of this historical mystery is guaranteed. Wharton even consults with another popular novelist of the time, her frenemy Henry James. Along the way, readers are allowed behind the scenes of book publishing at the time. For those that find such things interesting, witnessing how little things have changed over the years, makes The Wharton Plot all the more engaging.
Without spoilers, the plot of The Wharton Plot dovetails nicely with current discussions within literary circles. This is when historical fiction is at its best. Reflecting our current climate through a lens of the past often exposes truths that are harder to recognize while floundering in the mire.
But all of that aside, The Wharton Plot is also a pure confection of a novel. A lavish and delightful journey to the past with an intriguing mystery, plenty of authentic details, and a main character readers can’t help but love. The narrative voice shines throughout and brings to life this formidable woman who once again refuses to be overlooked. Settle in to read Mariah Fredericks’ The Wharton Plot and be prepared to feel the sudden urge to immediately seek out Edith Wharton’s excellent oeuvre, including The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.