MURDER IN MIDTOWN by Liz Freeland brings to life New York in the early 1900s.  Besides a good mystery, readers will be enlightened about the different social issues during that era.

The plot begins with a fire breaking out at a publicity house.  It is the one Louise Faulk works at while waiting to see if she has passed the exam to become a NYPD police officer. As the investigation of the charred ruins begins, rumors of foul play are already circulating. Trying to get to the truth, the firm’s surviving partner asks Louise to investigate the matter, knowing she has experience in police issues. While trying to find who murdered her boss, Guy Van Hooten, Louise finds herself searching for answers from one end of New York to the other, crossing paths with all levels of society.

Louise is determined, has an independent spirit, and is focused on the clues. She is very motivated on finding out who would want her boss dead. Having helped in solving one murder, she has experience in investigating this next one to cross her path.

Social issues of the period make the story relevant. This includes a Jewish character who faces Anti-Semitism, a mixed marriage couple, and a famous entertainer who gets embroiled in the story.

The plot has quite a few suspects and plenty of red herrings, twists and turns to keep readers guessing along the way. It is a delightful cozy mystery intertwined with historical depictions, an exciting turn of the century New York City setting, and a plucky protagonist.

Elise Cooper:  Why the early 1900s?

Liz Freeland:  I always wanted to write about that era.  My interest came about because my grandmother was born during that time period.  She was raised on a farm and moved to the big city of Chicago to finish her education.  She never went back home again.  Just like her, my character, Louise, moves to a big city to remake herself.

EC:  I did not think there were women police officers during that time period?

LF:  I think many were leery of women on the police force.  For example, since there were no traffic lights in New York, the police had to direct traffic.  Women could have done that duty easily.  But New York City thought women on a street corner directing traffic would cause more problems.  Men driving cars would be staring at the women.  Although, there were a few who did take on police roles including undercover detective work. 

EC:  Your character is a lot like Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy?

LF:  I used to read her, and she was one of my favorite authors. I love her books.  Because she is in the same wheelhouse as Louise, I stopped reading her.  I did not want to feel intimidated because she is such a good writer. 

EC:  Do you like writing a murder where you cannot use technology?

LF:  Also, no DNA.  It frees me up, so the police have to use only clues to figure out the who done it.  Although, it was an era when some technology cases were using blood types to help in the investigation.  A lot of the research I do is trying to figure when things started to happen in terms of forensics. 

EC:  How would you describe the victim, Guy?

LF:  He has a frat boy type of personality and is cowardly.  I do think he was open-minded to reach out and fall for someone who was Jewish and different than he was.  He is part of the autocratic class and she was a working girl.  But he was not brave enough to take her home to mother. The world at that time was segregated.  Jews were hard working, but because of the religious reason they were not accepted.

EC:  Even famous people like Irving Berlin was not fully accepted?

LF:  He was respected and rich but not fully accepted.  He fell in love with a Christian woman.  Her parents tried to separate them, so they stayed apart for years.  This was very typical.

EC:  How would you describe Louise?

LF:  Only twenty, so very young. Resilient because she had a lot of setbacks and suppresses what happened to her.  She is forthright and speaks her mind. She is brave even when she fears something.

EC:  You touch on the corruption of the time?

LF:  I put in the quote about politicians, policemen, and functionaries could be bought. The corruption was a cancer on the system.  It was a town where anything went. This is when the progressive era was starting to clean things up.  They tried to turn the ship around and enact laws. 

EC:  Your next book?

LF:  Louise is now working in the police department.  She is looking into the death of a prostitute that is connected to German sabotage/espionage operations.  Since World War I just started it has war and a police investigation.