A Gilded Age Mystery

Welcome, everyone!

For me the excitement of 2017 begins with the publication of What the Dead Leave Behind, the first in my new Gilded Age Mystery series, due out on April 25, 2017.

Since the opening scene is during the Great Blizzard of 1888, I thought you might enjoy seeing a few images of New York City after what was called the storm of the century blew in on March 12th of that year, three weeks before Easter.

There are many contemporary photos, sketches, and newspaper articles available if you’re interested in eyewitness accounts of what it was like to get caught in this deadly storm that took place more than 125 years ago. I have to warn you, though, once you start researching, you may not be able to stop!

The only thing I find more challenging and enjoyable than reading about exciting, fearful, or puzzling historical events is writing about what the historians left out, imagining what might have happened if…

I hope you’ll join me on this journey into the Gilded Age.


What the Dead Leave Behind – Booklist

“The Great Blizzard of 1888 in New York City provides the perfect cover-up for murder in Simpson’s third novel, the first of a historical mystery series set during the Gilded Age. In a short period, Prudence MacKenzie loses her beloved father and her fiancé in what could be a murderous plot to steal her inheritance. Luckily, she is taken under the wing of her father’s lawyer, as Judge MacKenzie’s will is somewhat irregular. Cue the wicked stepmother and her equally repugnant brother. Readers will hope Stepmama is a murderer, but so much happens as the plot unwinds that it’s not a foregone conclusion. This is a story to savor, despite a few unlikely coincidences (the fiancé’s rich attorney friend available at all hours to help Prudence), with an admirable teenage heroine who changes from drug-addled to determined and takes charge. Prudence is a stubborn, quick-witted American heroine who will remind readers of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily Ashton and Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey.” – Booklist, 4/1/2017

What the Dead Leave Behind – Library Journal

“The blizzard that hit New York City in March 1888 killed 200 people. Lawyer Charles Linwood is found frozen to death with a playing card, the ace of spades, clutched in his hand, and his head crushed by a branch. He and heiress Prudence MacKenzie were to marry in less than a month. With Charles dead, Prudence’s stepmother, Victoria, becomes the trustee of Prudence’s inheritance. After discovering Victoria trying to slip her laudanum, the intrepid Prudence pairs up with ex-Pinkerton agent Geoffrey Hunter, Charles’s old school friend, to investigate the woman’s past and find a way to escape her clutches. In their search for answers, they join forces with unusual allies: a hansom driver, a legal secretary, a former police officer with ties to the underworld and the old Confederacy, and a blind code breaker. VERDICT ­Launching an atmospheric new series set in Gilded Age New York, Simpson (The Seven Hills of Paradise) incorporates historical events and figures to add verisimilitude to this tension-filled story. Suggest for mystery readers who appreciate period detail, including fans of Anne Perry’s “Thomas and Charlotte Pitt” mysteries.
” – Library Journal (Starred Review), 3/1/2017

What the Dead Leave Behind – Kirkus Reviews

“A daring daughter of the Gilded Age must fight her stepmother for her very survival. The death of Judge Thomas MacKenzie leaves his daughter, Prudence, a wealthy heiress. Between his own talents and those of his friend, attorney and former senator Roscoe Conkling, the judge died certain that he’d left his daughter well provided for despite the rapacious machinations of his second wife, Victoria. Prudence, who’s never understood why the judge remarried, loathes Victoria and her slimy brother, Donald Morley, who lives with them. A few short weeks before Prudence is to marry and come into her inheritance, her fiance, Charles Linwood, dies in an apparent accident during a monster snowstorm that nearly claims Conkling too, leaving Prudence a minor under the thumb of her stepmother, who doses her with laudanum to keep her pliable. Realizing that she has only herself to count on in her battle with Victoria, strong-willed Prudence exchanges the laudanum for tea and quietly searches the house for evidence that might free her from Victoria. She gets help from Conkling and southerner Geoffrey Hunter, a former Pinkerton agent and Charles’ best friend since college days. The more closely they investigate, the more it seems likely that both Charles and the judge were murdered. Have Victoria and her brother plotted their way to riches, or does someone else have a grudge against the judge and his family? In an unwilling game of cat and mouse, Prudence struggles to keep herself alive and find the proof that will set her free. Simpson’s debut, first in a planned series, features complex characters, a vivid look at old New York in the late 1800s, and a mystery with a twist.” – Kirkus Reviews, 2/15/2017