Being a (former) New Yorker, I was very happy to win a giveaway of this book. The description intrigued me quite a bit, and though I hadn’t read any of the other books in Triss Stein’s “Erica Donato Mysteries,” I plunged right into this one. I’m happy to say it stands well on its own and I didn’t think I missed much by starting the series in the middle.
Erica Donato is a curator and historian at the Brooklyn Art Museum. She begins the search for a missing Walt Whitman plaque and ends up deep in a murder investigation in Brooklyn. While trying t track down what happened to the missing plaque, she meets the legendary Louisa Gibbs. She is a fiery community activist that has fought developers for decades to try to maintain the character of the neighborhood she lives in, Brooklyn Heights. Although getting up there in years, she’s still a fighter although her age is slowing her down a bit.
Louisa has been in a continuous battle with the Watch Tower Society; Jehovah’s Witnesses who own a large building on her block. They are looking to sell the building, and there’s a dispute about the boundary between their properties. The developers who are trying to buy the property, the Prinzigs, seem to want to acquire both properties and won’t let anything get in their way.
Daniel Towns, the leader of the Witnesses in the building, is found murdered in one of the underground tunnels. Louisa Gibbs is the obvious suspect, and Erica immediately feels protective of her. As she tries to help the elderly woman clear her name, she digs up things in the past that many people wish would be left in the past.
Brooklyn Legacies was a great book to read. I don’t know if it’s because I am acquainted with the area that she drew me in, but I found it to be a lot of fun. Erica is not a detective or an officer of the law. She’s simply a historian who knows how to search for history and applies the same work she does in her field to this situation.
I loved the characters that were featured throughout the novel. Many were quirky and fun, and they all had secrets. Triss Stein paced this mystery perfectly. At one point or another, I found myself suspecting just about everybody. Her descriptions of the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, both in its history and the current day, were right on point. She had a great way of saying something without saying it directly, such as creating Louisa Gibbs’ background by describing her home and what was found in it. I could see a woman (sort of like Bella Abzug in my mind) who had come up through society, and although she bucked a lot of society’s rules, she was still living in a home that reflected that time.
The character of Erica is interesting. I’ll go back to the beginning now and start reading the other novels. Here it’s presented that her job is giving her some financial security which she hasn’t had. Her daughter is as well-adjusted as any teenager can be, and her steady romantic partner, Joe, seems to be progressing nicely. The only thing that might spell trouble? Those developers I mentioned are people Joe has to work with from time to time.
That doesn’t stop Erica, though. No matter how threatening the Prinzigs seem, Erica needs to find out the truth behind Daniel Towns’ murder. In doing so, she digs up events of the past that have long been forgotten, except by a select few. There are many red herrings throughout the book, but they fit well and don’t seem contrived or forced. I loved the detail in the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York. Even having lived there as long as I did, I didn’t know a lot about them or their holdings. The same is true of a lot of the history presented in Brooklyn Legacies. Triss Stein does clarify in the afterword what is truth and what is fiction in the history she had presented in the book.
I’m happy to have found another series I enjoy. I think New Yorkers, in particular, would enjoy this one. The characters have a human feel to them and don’t feel contrived. The mystery takes many twists and turns until the truth comes out, and I felt like I didn’t want to put it down.
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