Death in a Gilded Frame

Fiction - Crime
244 Pages
Reviewed on 04/09/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Death in a Gilded Frame by Cecelia Tichi is a continuation of the amateur detective series featuring Roddy DeVere, a true former Bostonian blue-blood, and his beautiful but not quite so socially adept wife, Val. It is the summer of 1899 and the DeVeres have, like almost all the society folk of New York, repaired to their country estate in Newport to escape the stifling heat. Set for a summer full of ladies' get-togethers, garden parties, and outdoor pursuits, Val is determined to learn to sail. However, Roddy has a special project he wants her to complete first. He wants a portrait of his wife to grace the walls of his study office back in New York. Reluctantly Val agrees and prepares to sit for the talented new artist André Cole. When Val and Roddy inadvertently stumble upon the grisly murder of the art studio’s manager, Warren Eccles, gossip quickly circulates among the ladies of Newport that somehow Val is involved in this horrific homicide. With the local constabulary seemingly unable to make much progress, it will be up to Roddy and Val to unmask the true killer and clear their names in high society.

Death in a Gilded Frame is a joyous journey back to a very different time when society’s structure was almost completely delineated by birth rather than wealth. The society families of Newport usually had both but Val, as an outsider, struggled to find acceptance among the true blue-bloods. Author Cecelia Tichi has created a wonderful character in Val and also in her husband Roddy who was prepared to buck tradition and expectations to marry a silver miner’s daughter from Colorado. I appreciated how hard it was for Val to find acceptance in Newport society, especially given her background and upbringing. This is not the first Roddy and Val mystery but each story has its conclusion and it is not necessary to have read the previous books. The author also does an excellent job of dropping tidbits of information about past stories and the circumstances of Roddy and Val’s courtship into the narrative to keep readers informed. The mystery of “whodunnit” is concealed well and the plotting is meticulous. The author’s clear fascination and love of this “gilded age” shines through on every page and I particularly enjoyed her meticulous descriptions of the superb residences and their owners that made up the summer “queens” of Newport. If you are a fan of murder mysteries and historical fiction of the period, you will find this story extremely satisfying. With the twentieth century about to begin and Val being a strident fighter for women’s rights, I can only imagine what the future might hold for Roddy and Val. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and highly recommend it.