Deception by Gaslight is on the one hand very familiar, but on the other hand interesting. The familiar includes the journalist partnering with a mysterious aristocrat to solve a series of thefts that might be connected to some murders affecting mostly high society to which they both have connections while trying to decide if they’re attracted to each other or not, and trying to keep their own personal secrets. The setting is late 19th century NYC, both the ballrooms of high class social gatherings and the lower-class back alleys.
The more interesting part is largely the characters; both the journalist, Genevieve Stewart, and the mysterious gentleman Daniel McCaffrey have some personality to them which keeps things interesting, and they both kind of admit at least to themselves they might possibly like the other, but they are also both too businesslike to really follow through for most of the book. They are also both interesting mixes of high and lower class; Genevieve was born into high society but her progressive family cost them social status and she now works for a local newspaper facing frustrations about being assigned things like flower shows and baby cuteness competitions. Daniel’s origins are a bit mysterious but he came into his wealth from a non-family member and he’s not born into that kind of thing. This almost inversion of high and low origins makes for an interesting dynamic. Their friends are also standards (like the poor titled Englishman school friend, the independent minded lady friends, the co-worker who might have a crush, the professional rival, the overbearing mother, etc.) but again they have enough personality that things don’t’ get dull.
The plot isn’t exactly the most intriguing part; there is a mysterious thief who steals mostly jewelry from the elites and publishes letters in the newspaper about what terrible people the victims were and how much they deserved to be robbed. There is also the question of how/if the murders are connected, and naturally both Daniel and Genevieve suspect things but don’t always tell the other, and they inevitably run into danger themselves (mostly Genevieve though).
The setting could use just a little more history or detail than just naming some recognized names like Mrs. Astor; there’s so much promise, especially since Daniel in particular seems to be interesting in housing reform which was a very real thing in that time and place. The other thing that bothered me slightly was the occasional habit of the author to end a chapter with things like “And that was the last time she saw her alive”, followed by the inevitable murder in the next chapter. There is a sequel due in the fall which I have hopes for, although the time skip in the epilogue to set that up seems a little unnecessary in how it’s presented in terms of Genevieve and Daniel, but the plot connection does make sense. We’ll see how that goes.