Today we are really pleased to welcome bestselling author, Rosemary Simpson,to Alternative-Read.com
Death, Diamonds, and Deception by Rosemary Simpson delves into the Gilded Age in New York during 1889. This historical mystery has a female detective, Prudence MacKenzie, and her partner, ex-Pinkerton detective, Geoffrey Hunter, investigating the stolen jewels from a necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette.
The story begins after the arrival of Prudence’s aunt, Lady Gillian Rotherton from London. She is intent on chaperoning her niece Prudence through a New York social season to find a suitable husband. One of society’s biggest affairs is the Assembly Ball where her aunt is hoping Prudence will meet a prospective husband. Prudence agrees to go only if Geoffrey escorts her. While there, Lady Rotherton determines that the stones in the spectacular diamond waterfall necklace adorning the neck of the wife of banker William De Vries are fake. To avoid scandal, the banker employs the investigative firm of Prudence and Geoffrey to discreetly recover the stolen diamonds pried out of their settings. As they find people of interest and pursue their elusive quarry, there is a string of mysterious deaths related to the theft.
The writing was so descriptive it made readers feel that they were actually in the Gilded Age of New York. The street conditions, the social distinctions and interactions, the expectations of women, the parties, the carriages, and much more came alive with Simpson’s writing style.
Prudence, an unusually independent young woman in 1879 New York, is from the upper echelon of society but abhors the insincerity and snobbery which is part of it. While Prudence is a reluctant part of the upper class, Geoffrey was a reluctant part of his Confederacy past. Because she is fiercely independent and not interested in the limitations of marriage, she is struggling with feelings of love for Geoffrey that may threaten her independence.
Anyone who enjoys historical fiction set in the Gilded Age is sure to enjoy this one. In this book, crime was the focus of the stories, while the characters took a backseat.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Rosemary Simpson: I wanted to take Prudence and Geoffrey back into the upper echelon of NY society. I put the story in December 1889 but referred back to May 1887 when the jeweler Tiffany bought 1/3 of all the French crown jewels auctioned off. I thought, what if the diamonds of Marie Antoinette found its way into a gorgeous necklace created by Tiffany and then it was stolen.
EC: Did you do any research?
RS: Yes. I researched famous diamond thefts where British thieves would steal one or two stones from a necklace and replace them with paste. They sold them under the table. It brings forth the question, who could have access to an expensive necklace and was able to take out a few stones?
EC: Did you do any research about the time period?
RS: The Assembly Balls were exclusive. They were magnificent balls. I read the New York Times archives describing the societal balls: who attended, what did they wear, what was the starting time, what was the menu, and what did they eat.
EC: Was there widespread gambling during the Gilded Age?
RS: Yes, especially in New York City. The gambling places were like palaces. People dropped an enormous amount of money. When I sent Prudence and her aunt there it was a very daring move. Only men went except for the expensive ladies of the night or mistresses. In addition, there were many dives in the slum area where people gambled on everything and anything.
EC: Some of the rich societal characters were based on those of that era?
RS: Morgan Whitley was a pitiful character. He was addicted to drugs, alcohol, and gambling. He had no purpose in life. There were many young men like him who did nothing with their lives. They had enough money, so they did not have to work.
EC: The crime was more of the plot than the characters?
RS: I like to set a crime against society. I wanted to show the family dynamics of the De Mere family. I wanted to show what these people were thinking and doing, and why some were so desperate. The crime, the setting, and the people are all closely intertwined. I hoped to give Geoffrey and Prudence a chance to unravel the crime by looking at the motives and opportunity.
EC: Can you give a shout out about your next book?
RS: It will be out in late 2021 and is titled, The Dead Cry Justice. Prudence is deciding if she will accept the invitation to attend law school. She does not want to be stuck in a law office but wants to argue cases in a courtroom. But first, she and Geoffrey go back to the slums to save children from kidnapping and exploitation. This book will show them getting much closer after they decided to rethink the relationship since they cared very much for each other.
If you liked this interview
Set amidst the opulent mansions and cobblestone streets of Old New York, this fifth installment in Rosemary Simpson’s acclaimed series brings the Gilded Age to life, as heiress Prudence MacKenzie and ex-Pinkerton Geoffrey Hunter dash down a twisted maze from Fifth Avenue to Five Points in pursuit of stolen diamonds once belonging to Marie Antionette …
Fall 1889: Lady Rotherton has arrived from London intent on chaperoning her niece Prudence through a New York social season to find a suitable husband. It’s certainly not her niece’s devilishly handsome partner in Hunter and MacKenzie Investigative Law. Aunt Gillian’s eye for eligible suitors is surpassed only by her ability to discern genuine gems from nearly flawless fakes. At the Assembly Ball at Delmonico’s, she effortlessly determines that the stones in the spectacular diamond waterfall necklace adorning the neck of the wife of banker William De Vries are fake.
Insisting on absolute discretion to avoid scandal, the banker employs Prudence and Geoffrey to recover the stolen diamonds pried out of their settings–priceless stones acquired by Tiffany, originally purchased for Marie Antoinette. Their search for a possible fence rapidly leads to a dead end: a jeweler brutally killed in his shop during an apparent theft.
The jeweler’s murder is only the first in a string of mysterious deaths, as Prudence and Geoffrey pursue their elusive quarry. But the clues keep leading back to duplicity on the part of the De Vries family, who, it turns out, have a great deal to hide…