Murder on Union Square (Gaslight Mystery Series #21)

Murder on Union Square (Gaslight Mystery Series #21)

by Victoria Thompson

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

$7.19 $7.99 Save 10% Current price is $7.19, Original price is $7.99. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Tuesday, October 22

Overview

When a murder hits close to home, Frank finds himself in an unusual position—the prime suspect in the latest installment of the national bestselling Gaslight Mystery series...

Sarah and Frank Malloy are enjoying married life and looking to make their family official by adopting Catherine, the child whom Sarah rescued and has been raising as her daughter. The process seems fairly straightforward, but at the last minute, the newlyweds discover that Parnell Vaughn, Catherine's legal father, has a claim on the child, and his grasping fiancée is demanding a financial settlement to relinquish parental rights. Even though exchanging money for a child is illegal, Frank and Sarah's love for Catherine drives them to comply.

When Frank returns with the money and finds Vaughn beaten to death, all evidence points to Frank as the culprit. A not-quite-famous actor with modest means, Vaughn seems an unlikely candidate for murder, particularly such a violent crime of passion. But Frank soon uncovers real-life intrigue as dramatic as any that appears on stage.

Sarah and Frank enlist those closest to them to help hunt for Vaughn's killer as Frank's own life—and the future of their family—hang in the balance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399586613
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Series: Gaslight Mystery Series , #21
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 26,374
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Victoria Thompson is the Edgar® and Agatha award-nominated author of the Gaslight mysteries—including Murder in the Bowery, Murder in Morningside Heights, Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue, and Murder on Amsterdam Avenue—as well as numerous historical novels. She lives in the Chicago area with her family.

Read an Excerpt

1

What do you mean, we can't adopt Catherine?" Sarah asked the attorney.

"Michael Hicks gave her a look that told her he shared her frustration. "I'm sorry-"

"I thought Mr. Wilbanks settled all of this in his will," Sarah's husband said. Frank Malloy reached over and took her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. They'd come to Michael's office today expecting good news. Plainly, they were going to be disappointed.

"I thought David had settled everything, too," Michael said. "And I know he certainly intended to as well. My father-in-law was a very careful man, but you see, I didn't draw up his final will. Estates are not my area of expertise, and it would be unethical for me to prepare a will for a family member in any case, so I referred him to a colleague of mine, Bill Jonson."

"Are you saying this colleague made a mistake?" Malloy was angry now but trying not to take it out on poor Michael. Sarah understood completely.

"Not a mistake." Michael was being very diplomatic. "My father-in-law was careful but also very private. He didn't believe he needed to tell Mr. Jonson all the sordid details about Catherine's birth."

"Which ones did he leave out?" Malloy asked.

Michael winced. "I, uh, I've asked Mr. Jonson to join us, if you don't mind, so he can explain it all to you." He got up and went to his office door to admit a man who had obviously been waiting for this summons.

Michael introduced Mr. Jonson, who was a distinguished-looking man of middle age wearing a conservatively cut, tailor-made suit and immaculate shirtfront. When they were all seated again, Michael said, "Bill, I have informed Mr. and Mrs. Malloy that they cannot adopt Catherine, but I haven't explained exactly why yet. I thought you could do that better than I."

"Of course." Mr. Jonson gave them his best reassuring smile. "You see, Mr. Wilbanks told me that Catherine was the illegitimate child he had with his mistress, an actress named Emma Hardy. However, he didn't think it necessary to explain that Emma Hardy also happened to be married to a Mr. Parnell Vaughn at the time of their affair. He probably thought it was none of my business."

"But what difference does that make?" Sarah asked. "Even Mr. Vaughn admitted he couldn't possibly be Catherine's father because he and Emma were separated when she met Mr. Wilbanks."

"Which is why Mr. Wilbanks didn't think it necessary to mention Mr. Vaughn at all," Jonson said. "Unfortunately, the law is rather unforgiving when it comes to matters of paternity."

"What does that mean?" Malloy asked.

"It means that the law considers a woman's husband to be the father of her children, regardless of any evidence to the contrary."

"But that's ridiculous," Sarah tried.

"In some cases, yes, but it is nevertheless the law."

"So you're telling us that the law considers Parnell Vaughn to be Catherine's father?" Malloy asked, no longer bothering to hide his anger.

"Yes," Michael said, "and that's one reason why David decided to leave part of his estate to Frank rather than directly to Catherine."

"You mean he knew about this paternity law?" Sarah asked.

"No, I'm sure he didn't," Mr. Jonson said. "And I certainly didn't explain it to him because I had no idea Miss Hardy was ever married to Mr. Vaughn. Rest assured, I would have made sure to settle the matter prior to Mr. Wilbanks's death. Even without knowing about Mr. Vaughn, I was already very concerned that if he left Catherine a great deal of money in her own right, she'd be a tempting target for any greedy family members Emma Hardy may have had or anyone willing to pretend to be her family member. A large inheritance would also make her a target for fortune hunters later in life."

"But after seeing how much you loved Catherine, Frank," Michael said, "David decided you were the man who could and would protect her from both of those dangers."

Malloy winced and glanced at his wife. "He should have left the money to Sarah."

"I'm afraid David was also old-fashioned. He would never trust a female with so much money, and besides, Sarah had already told him she wouldn't accept it." Michael smiled slightly. "I must also tell you that Mr. Jonson did not approve of David making you one of his heirs, Frank."

"I certainly did not," Jonson said. "Even though Mr. Wilbanks's will instructed you to become Catherine's legal guardian, there was no way to compel you to do so. Such a provision causes an attorney great concern."

"Yes, it does," Michael said. "Bill was almost apoplectic about it."

"So was I," Malloy said. "I wish I'd suspected he was going to do it so I could have threatened to refuse it like Sarah did."

"Which is why he never informed you, I'm sure," Michael said.

Mr. Jonson still looked distressed. "You see, after you received your inheritance, you could have abandoned Catherine completely, and even now you have no obligation to share any of the money with her."

"But we would never abandon Catherine," Sarah said.

"David believed that, I know," Michael said, "which is why he did what he did, but the fact remains that he has put you in a difficult position. You can't adopt Catherine as long as Vaughn is legally her father."

"You might get a judge to name you as her official guardian," Jonson said, "but it would mean a court case and publicity you'd find distasteful and a scandal that could follow her all of her life. You'd probably win in the end, although there's no guarantee of that, but even if you did, you still wouldn't be able to adopt Catherine, and Vaughn would always be there."

"You might never hear from him again, of course," Michael said, "but whenever there's money involved, people do tend to make nuisances of themselves. There's no telling what he might do, and after what happened before . . ."

"You don't think he'd try to kidnap her?" Sarah asked in alarm, remembering the horror of her first encounter with Catherine's blood relatives.

"It wouldn't legally be kidnapping," Michael said. "In the eyes of the law, he's her father, so he could be entitled to custody."

Sarah couldn't help groaning.

"So what can we do about this?" Malloy asked impatiently. "I know you lawyers always have an answer for everything."

Michael glanced at Jonson, who said, "We do try, but there isn't always an easy answer for everything. In this case, you would need for Vaughn to relinquish his parental rights. I could have the documents drawn up and when he has signed them, you could then proceed with the adoption."

"And Vaughn couldn't come back later to reclaim Catherine?" Sarah asked.

"No, he couldn't."

"I wonder how much he'll want in exchange for his signature," Malloy said.

"Uh, that's another thing we need to discuss," Michael said uneasily. "It's illegal for you to pay him to give up custody."

"What?" Malloy nearly shouted. "Why would that be illegal?"

"Because it's considered selling a child, and selling human beings is illegal in the United States, I'm happy to say."

Sarah wanted to weep. "So we're supposed to convince Mr. Vaughn to sign Catherine over to us out of the goodness of his heart?"

"I'm afraid so."

"And if he doesn't have any goodness in his heart?" Malloy asked.

Michael and Mr. Jonson exchanged looks again. "Let's just hope he does."

What are we going to do?" Sarah asked Malloy the moment Michael's office door closed behind them.

"

"We're going to find Parnell Vaughn and convince him to sign Catherine over to us."

"What are the chances he'll do it?"

Sarah didn't like Malloy's expression one little bit. "Very small, I'd guess."

Sarah wanted to weep again. "He'd do it if we paid him, I'm sure."

"I know, which is why I think we'll have to pay him."

"But Michael said that's illegal!"

"Which means we're stuck either way."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, when Vaughn finds out he's legally Catherine's father, he'll probably decide he'd be a fool to sign her over. He'll know that as long as he has the right to claim her, we'll be willing to keep paying him off to keep him from doing so."

"But if he signs the papers . . ." Sarah said.

"Which he won't do unless we pay him, and if he knows that's illegal, he'll always have that over us, too. If we don't keep paying him, he'll accuse us of 'buying' Catherine and try to get her back again."

"So, we're back to my original question: What are we going to do?"

"I'm going to find Vaughn. We can't decide anything until we've talked to him."

He was right, of course. "He's probably touring in some theater company, though." Vaughn was an actor, too, which was how he'd met Emma Hardy. "How will we track him down?"

"Same way we did before, and with any luck, we'll find out he drank himself to death since we last saw him."

"Oh, Malloy, we don't really wish him dead," Sarah said, although she couldn't help thinking how Vaughn's death would make everything so much simpler.

Mr. Malloy is right," Maeve said. "If Vaughn was dead, that would make everything so much easier."

"

Sarah gave her nanny a look meant to chasten her, although she was sure such efforts were wasted on the girl. "We do not wish Mr. Vaughn ill, Maeve. We simply want him to sign some papers." Sarah had gone straight home after their meeting with Michael Hicks, while Malloy had gone to find out what he could about Parnell Vaughn. Maeve had just returned from the Lower East Side, where she was supervising the workmen who were turning the old house Sarah had purchased into a maternity clinic that would provide services free of charge to women in need. She'd wanted to tell Sarah how she'd outsmarted the workmen yet again and terrorized them into doing exactly what she demanded, but she'd forgotten all that when Sarah told her about their meeting with the attorney.

"Oh no, I don't wish Mr. Vaughn any misfortune," Maeve assured her with just the right amount of sincerity. "But I'm afraid your lawyer is right. People act strange when money is involved."

"Then we'll deal with that when we must. In the meantime, tell me how the clinic is coming along."

"Women are still coming to the door every day wanting to know when we're going to open," Maeve said.

"I know. You've told me that before. I'm sure everyone knows the midwives have moved in, too, so that probably doesn't help."

"Those two women you hired are going to be perfect, and having them move in to make sure the place is occupied at night was a very good idea. They're already making home visits, and Miss Hanson delivered a baby last night."

"She did?" Sarah couldn't have been more delighted. "Oh, I do miss those deliveries." Sarah had made her living as a midwife for years before her marriage.

"I already told them they'll need to let you deliver a baby every now and then."

"Thank you," Sarah said with a grin.

"Oh, and I almost forgot, you'll never guess who I saw today."

Sarah didn't particularly care, since her mind was still focused on Catherine and their situation, in spite of Maeve's best efforts to distract her. "Who?"

"That fortune-teller, Serafina Straface."

"Serafina? Really?" Sarah asked in surprise. "How long has it been since we saw her?"

"A couple years, I think."

"What did she want?"

Maeve gave her a pitying look. "The same thing all the other women want."

"Oh!" So Serafina was expecting.

"Yes. Apparently, she's still telling fortunes or whatever it was she did."

"She's a medium."

Maeve rolled her eyes at such a notion. "So she says. Then I guess she's still a medium, but I gathered she's looking for a private place to have her baby."

"I suppose she married her young man, Mr. DiLoreto."

"You can suppose that all you want, but when she told me her name, she said it was Straface."

"Oh dear." The world was not kind to unwed mothers. Then she remembered. "In Italy, women don't take their husband's name."

"Really?"

"Yes, really."

"That's interesting. But I guess in America, actresses don't either. Emma Hardy didn't."

"You're right, she didn't. So Serafina is interested in using the clinic?"

"I think she was just interested in using you as a midwife. She said she went to your old house, and they sent her to the clinic to find you."

"Our neighbors have been very good about not telling people where we live now," Sarah said.

"Yes, they have, and it sure cuts down on the number of people coming here looking for a handout," Maeve said with a smirk. "She didn't tell me when, uh, she'll need the clinic, but she seemed glad to hear it should be ready in a few days."

"Do you think so?" Sarah asked in surprise.

"If I have anything to say about it, it will. I have those workmen terrified of Mr. Malloy, especially after they tried to pretend they didn't know they were supposed to fix the wall in the back today."

"Maeve, you missed your calling."

"I know. I should've been a man. I would've been good at it, too. Better than most men, anyway."

Sarah couldn't help laughing, in spite of everything, which she guessed had been Maeve's intention. "I didn't mean that. I meant you should have been a . . ."

Maeve waited a few seconds while Sarah tried in vain to think of some profession to which a woman could aspire that would use Maeve's talents. "See? You can't think of anything. I was right. I should've been a man."

"But instead you're going to help other women."

"I suppose, and maybe someday Mr. Malloy will let me work for him."

Finding Parnell Vaughn turned out to be much easier than Frank had anticipated. As an actor, Vaughn often worked for touring companies, and he might have been anywhere in the country. The last time they'd tried to locate him, he'd just been returning to New York from a tour. Frank tried the theatrical agent who had helped him then, only to discover that agents represented shows, not actors, and Vaughn was no longer appearing in any of that agent's shows. Frank had to visit only a couple more agents, however, before he found his quarry.

"Oh yes, Parnell Vaughn," Mr. Dinsmore said with obvious distaste. "He's having quite a successful run with Mrs. Hawkes at the Palladium Theater."

"Mrs. Hawkes?" Adelia Hawkes was one of the most famous actresses in the country. "Are you sure? It's Parnell Vaughn I'm looking for. Maybe you have him confused with someone else."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Murder on Union Square 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Disappointed in the number of times we went over and over who might have done it vice having the usual ongoing fast paced story. Not up to par with previous books. Wasn't least surprised about who did it!
Anonymous 11 months ago
I have read the complete Gaslight series in order and have really enjoyed every one. On to #22!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the characters in this series and being born and raised in the city I love ready about the city during this moment in time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story Great Characters. While a fanciful story ( that we all wish could be true) it is set in historical accuracy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never disappointed. Another enjoyable book.
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
I love this series and this was my favorite one for a long time. All of my favorite characters were back in this installment. I love Sarah and Frank but it is great to have the minor characters also. I did not want to put this book down. I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I received a copy of this book from Firsttoread for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good read.
MonnieR More than 1 year ago
It took me a while to get into this book, mostly because I haven't read any others in the series (and since there have been more than 20, clearly I've missed a lot) and also because for whatever reason I didn't realize that it's a turn-of-the-century setting. Once I figured that out, though, the dialog and interactions among the characters made total sense; from then on, reading it was quite an enjoyable experience. At the beginning, New York married couple Sarah (nee Brandt) and Frank Malloy (she a midwife and he a private detective) are hoping to adopt Catherine, a child Sarah apparently has been raising (how that came to be was, I suppose, the subject of an earlier book). They learn that the man Catherine's mother was married to isn't her birth father; and under the law, only the real father has parental rights and can sign over his daughter to the Malloys. Turns out he's Parnell Vaughn, an actor in a small, independent theater company, and he's more than willing to give up the child he neither knew nor wants anything to do with. His actress fiancee, though, isn't about to let him give something for nothing; ante up, she demands, or she'll put the kabosh on the deal. Even though the real dad doesn't care about the money and such payments are illegal, Frank agrees; but when he returns to the theater with cash in hand, he finds that Parnell has been brutally murdered. Worse, since Frank gets covered with Parnell's blood when he inspected the body and nobody else seems to be around, Frank becomes the No. 1 suspect. Needless to say, he didn't do it - so he and his partner Gino, with help from Sarah, set out to prove his innocence. There's no shortage of other suspects, including the aforementioned fiancee, a long-in-the-tooth actress who refuses to give up ingenue roles and act her age, her producer husband who would do anything to keep her happy and an agent who may have motives that are not in his clients' best interests. Helping to sort things out is Serafina, another character from an earlier book or books; as a medium, she just may be able to conjure up insights that will help get to the truth. The action moves along quickly (although it does get a bit bogged down here and there by too-lengthy "what if" discussions among the characters). The writing is interesting and true to the period, and once in a while there's a touch of humor. The only thing I was never able to figure out, though, is why Frank is referred to by his first name in some instances and his last name in others (for a while, I actually thought they were two different people). Still, I'm happy to find this series, a delightful combination of historical fiction and murder mystery. For sure, I'll be watching for the next installment. Meantime, I thank the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an advance review copy.
carol223CS More than 1 year ago
Victoria Thompson’s Murder on Union Square This is a creatively, complex and thought provoking historical fiction cozy mystery. This book takes the reader in the theater during this time period. You will meet the cast of well crafted actors and actresses. You will meet managers and learn of the syndicate of the acting world at that time. All the characters are well rounded, well developed, three dimensional and interesting characters. Murders, dark secrets, affairs, ghosts, danger, false arrest, adoption laws, adoption papers all combine to make an interesting read. Sarah Brandt Malloy is midwife and Frank Malloy is a retired policeman who does private investigating. Maeve Smith is cares for their children and Frank's mother helps her. Maeve also is runs the supervision of the clinic’s refurbishment. Maeve along with Gino Donatelli, a former policeman who worked with Frank are part of Frank private investigation service. In the process of Sarah and Frank adoption of the child Sarah saved and has been raising, there is a hitch. At he time of Catherine’s birth, her birth mother was not married to the birth father but was legally married to an actor. Although the birth mother is dead, her husband the actor is living and legally considered the father. The adoption can only take place if he signs the adoption papers. Frank takes the papers to the theater for the actor who agreed to sign them. What a shock to discover the actor dead in his dressing room!! What a shock to have another cast member accuse Frank of the murder!! What a tragedy that Frank is arrested for murder!! The story was intriguing with deceit, a second murder, a seance, thrills, chills and who can you believe problem. This is book # 21 in the Gaslight Mystery series. It can be read as a stand alone. I volunteered to read Murder at Union Square. Thanks to the Penguin First-to-Read Program got the opportunity. My opinion is my own.
carol223CS More than 1 year ago
Victoria Thompson’s Murder on Union Square This is a creatively, complex and thought provoking historical fiction cozy mystery. This book takes the reader in the theater during this time period. You will meet the cast of well crafted actors and actresses. You will meet managers and learn of the syndicate of the acting world at that time. All the characters are well rounded, well developed, three dimensional and interesting characters. Murders, dark secrets, affairs, ghosts, danger, false arrest, adoption laws, adoption papers all combine to make an interesting read. Sarah Brandt Malloy is midwife and Frank Malloy is a retired policeman who does private investigating. Maeve Smith is cares for their children and Frank's mother helps her. Maeve also is runs the supervision of the clinic’s refurbishment. Maeve along with Gino Donatelli, a former policeman who worked with Frank are part of Frank private investigation service. In the process of Sarah and Frank adoption of the child Sarah saved and has been raising, there is a hitch. At he time of Catherine’s birth, her birth mother was not married to the birth father but was legally married to an actor. Although the birth mother is dead, her husband the actor is living and legally considered the father. The adoption can only take place if he signs the adoption papers. Frank takes the papers to the theater for the actor who agreed to sign them. What a shock to discover the actor dead in his dressing room!! What a shock to have another cast member accuse Frank of the murder!! What a tragedy that Frank is arrested for murder!! The story was intriguing with deceit, a second murder, a seance, thrills, chills and who can you believe problem. This is book # 21 in the Gaslight Mystery series. It can be read as a stand alone. I volunteered to read Murder at Union Square. Thanks to the Penguin First-to-Read Program got the opportunity. My opinion is my own.