If you’ve been enjoying the interpersonal intrigue and Victorian-era glamour of HBO’s The Gilded Age but want a good mystery too, Rosemary Simpson’s Gilded Age Mystery series is the perfect fit! The series follows New York City heiress Prudence MacKenzie as she teams up with ex-Pinkerton agent Geoffrey Hunter to solve crimes in the city. Their investigations take them from the sitting rooms of the ultra-wealthy to New York’s seedy underbelly. Prudence is a gifted investigator but constantly has to prove herself in a society that expects her to only be a wife and mother.
More books are expected to come in the future, but you can check out the first six books in the series below!
What the Dead Leaves Behind
During the Great Blizzard of 1888, New York City heiress Prudence MacKenzie’s fiance Charles dies. He is found frozen, his head crushed by a tree branch, and holding an ace of spades playing card. Her grief over losing Charles is palpable, especially since it has happened so soon after her father’s sudden death. It also has her convinced that his death might not be an accident...
When no one is willing to believe her, Prudence turns to Charles’ childhood friend Geoffrey Hunter. Not only is he a former Pinkerton agent and an attorney, but the ace of spades was a code he and Charles shared. The two team up to discover the truth behind what happened to Charles and to protect Prudence’s inheritance from her scheming stepmother.
Related: 13 Riveting Historical Mysteries
Lies That Comfort and Betray
The second installment in the series finds Prudence and Geoffrey working as partners in their own law firm, although women are not allowed to be admitted to the bar. A new case hits much closer to home than usual when Prudence’s servant and childhood playmate Nora Kenny is found dead in a park. Prudence is heartbroken and is determined to solve her case. Though things get far more complicated as more poor, single women are found dead.
The police are stumped, and rumors begin to swell that Jack the Ripper, the infamous killer who stalked the streets of London, has arrived in America. Or could it be a copycat? It’s up to Prudence and Geoffrey to track down the truth before the city falls victim to a madman.
Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets
It’s not surprising when opera singer Claire Buchanan calls her friend Prudence and her partner Geoffrey to talk about the death of her sister Catherine and her newborn daughter. Childbirth is dangerous for everyone in Gilded Age society and tragedy is all too common. However, the duo is surprised when Claire reveals she believes Catherine and the child were murdered. She claims she can feel her sister’s spirit, and she wants justice.
Claire has already identified Catherine’s widower as a suspect. Aaron Sorensen was cold and cruel to Catherine and has already remarried. With his new wife expecting a child of her own, Prudence and Geoffrey rush to investigate Claire’s claim. But to do that, Prudence must pose as Aaron’s next victim, putting her own life on the line.
Death Brings A Shadow
When Prudence’s friend Eleanor Dickinson’s wedding arrives, she is excited to leave the hustle and bustle of New York to serve as the maid of honor at the ceremony on Bradford Island, Georgia. Prudence brings Geoffrey along to enjoy the festivities on islands that serve as vacation homes for many of America’s richest families. The fun comes to an abrupt halt when, days before the wedding, Eleanor goes missing and is eventually found drowned in a swamp.
As the body is prepared for the funeral, Prudence and Geoffrey make a startling discovery. Eleanor is covered in bruises that seem to show that she was held under the water, murdered just before her own wedding. Prudence and Geoffrey’s investigation plunges them into the island’s dark history. It’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies on Bradford Island.
Death, Diamonds, and Deception
Prudence’s British aunt Lady Rotherton has a keen eye for just about everything, from potential husbands for her niece to spotting the difference between genuine jewelry and expert fakes. So when she sees the wife of wealthy banker William De Vries at the Assembly Ball at Delmonico’s, she is quick to point out the diamonds in her necklace are fakes. De Vries sends Prudence and Geoffrey on the trail of the real diamonds—ones that originally adorned a necklace belonging to Marie Antoinette. But the case becomes about much more than stolen diamonds when a jeweler is found dead in his shop as the result of an apparent burglary.
As more people wind up dead, Prudence and Geoffrey find themselves hunting a killer as well as the jewelry. But when the clues start to point back towards the De Vries family themselves, it becomes clear that this case might be more than they can handle.
The Dead Cry Justice
It’s 1890, and NYU Law School has finally decided to admit female law students. In some ways, this is the opportunity Prudence has always wanted, but she knows it will affect her relationship with Geoffrey, both professionally and personally. As she contemplates what to do, a routine theft investigation leads her to discover a badly beaten girl and the young boy who is protecting her. Prudence puts them in the Friends Refuge for the Sick Poor, but the children soon escape.
Prudence suspects a predator is at large, and she and Geoffrey team up with famous reporter Nellie Bly and the photographer Jacob Riis to scour the New York slums for answers. Armed only with a doll that bears a mysterious resemblance to the young girl, they begin talking to the orphans of the tenements. Their stories all have one thing in common, a child killer they call "Il diavolo." Prudence and Geoffrey will have to use everything they know to find the children first before Il diavolo strikes again.