Death Brings A Shadow (A Gilded Age Mystery Book 4)

Rosemary Simpson

Kensington Pub.

Nov 26th, 2019

Death Brings A Shadow by Rosemary Simpson brings to life the post-Civil War period of the Gilded Age. Along with a murder mystery Simpson explores the South during the Reconstruction era.

The story opens in 1889 when Prudence MacKenzie and Geoffrey Hunter are traveling from their residence of New York to Bradford Island, a sea island off the coast of Georgia. The setting provides a very creepy atmosphere, which fits into the plot line perfectly. It will remind readers of the line from the “Wizard of Oz,” only this time it is alligators, snakes, and mosquitoes-oh my.   

It also delves into the culture and thought process of Southerners after the Civil War where bigotry still runs deep.  This story has two families from different backgrounds that are merged by the soon-to-be wedding of Yankee Eleanor Dickson and Southerner Teddy Bennett. The Dickson’s are financially secure, while the Bennett’s are struggling to survive.  Eleanor’s father bought the island as a summer retreat and has allowed Teddy’s family to keep their ancestral home that once was a thriving plantation. There are ex-slaves that become secondary characters in the story including Aunt Jessa, an elderly African woman who practices white voodoo and Queen Lula, a practitioner of black magic.

Unfortunately, the wedding turns into a funeral after Prudence’s best friend, Eleanor, is found dead in the swamp.  The main characters, Prudence and Geoffrey, find that the body has numerous bruises and a dislocated shoulder indicating that someone held Eleanor underwater. Prudence, along with Geoffrey, run a private investigation firm, and are determined to get to the bottom of what really happened.  To do this they must battle complications that arise from more murders taking place and the strain that Geoffrey’s Southern background has created.

As the story progresses so does the tension.  With each truth, there are twists and turns that keep the readers guessing. The depiction of the South is very unsettling because of the moral injustices and hidden secrets.

Elise Cooper:  Why this era?

Rosemary Simpson:  I wanted to talk about what happened in the period after the Civil War.  I also wanted to find out more about Geoffrey and his background.

EC:  Geoffrey came from the South?

RS: He left everything behind, but still carries his family with him.  He is a conflicted character because he cannot be completely disloyal, but has moral qualms. This is why I put in this quote, “The hidden places of the private Geoffrey, where blood and family and conflicting loyalties warred for control of who and what he was.” At some point, I will take him back to North Carolina to the plantation where his family still lives.

EC:  The island was pretty creepy?

RS:  I remember walking in Cumberland Island, off the Georgia coast.  As I walked along the sand it was so beautiful with the ocean breeze.  But as I continued walking away from the ocean across the sand dunes, all of a sudden, I was surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes and was looking down for snakes.  People can get lost, dehydrated, bit by a snake, and can fall over a tree root.  It is very dangerous; yet, it is also magical in an eerie sort of way. I think the setting is another character in the book because it is so dominant. 

EC:  How would you describe the relationship between Prudence and Geoffrey?

RS:  It changed from what I envisioned.  Prudence senses that the mysteries of his personality are deeper than she first thought.  Within this current environment she is puzzled and a little angry for not being able to understand and feels manipulated by him.  Throughout most of the book they are in conflict.  At times, it seems they are warmer and closer, but there is always something that gets in the way.  

EC:  You also delve into Southern culture?

RS:  The South back then, even nowadays, is very insular and defensive against people who do not share the common background.  I lived in the South for more than thirty years.  Sometimes I felt apart from the culture.  While there, I listened to people, and absorbed the attitudes, and the way they looked at things.

EC:  It is fascinating how a murder is solved with no DNA or forensics?

RS:  To get around it there must be physical clues.  I did a lot of research on how to kill people.  The fingerprints on the neck and the dislocation of the shoulder are things that could happen in a struggle.

EC:  What about the duels?

RS:  The men saw it as settling a conflict with courage.  To them it was a civil way to resolve a disagreement, especially when someone’s honor is questioned.

EC:  There is voodoo?

RS:  Yes with the characters Aunt Jessa and Queen Lula.  Many Southerners believed it then and still believe in it now.  There is juju and spells.  Sometimes it worked because the person attributed something that happened to the spell.  The doll and the bracelet are realistic as well as spells that could not be reversed.  I took a lot of this information from first person accounts and stories. 

EC:  A shout out about the next book?

RS:  For now the title is Death, Diamonds, and Deception. There is a theft of diamonds that belonged to Marie Antoinette in which Geoffrey and Prudence investigate. The jewelry store Tiffany bought them after the French government auctioned the crown jewels off and brought them back to New York City.