Ten Days in August
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Genre(s): M/M Historical
Page Count: 256
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Blurb: Read book blurb here
It's 1896 and Police Inspector Henry (Hank) Brandt is convinced a serial killer is murdering working boys - a dangerous situation in more ways than one. Brandt is in line for a promotion from Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (yes, the guy on Mount Rushmore), and his partner suspects that Hank's interest in the case may not be entirely police-related. Brandt is hiding a secret - he's an "invert" (as gay men were called at the turn of the century) - and he finds himself captivated by his key witness - Nicholas (Nicky) Sharp, a female impersonator at Club Bulgaria in the Bowery.
Hank soon finds himself in a quandry; he cannot walk away from the attraction he feels for Nicky, and knows if he is discovered to be an "invert" he will lose his livelihood as a police detective, but he is determined to solve the case. And when it turns out the main suspect is a member of New York high society, Hank realizes he may never be able to bring the man to justice in a society where money and prestige are more important than ethics, morals .... and murder.
The attraction between Hank and Nicky happens quickly - "Well, I hate to tell you, darling, but I am all male beneath my skirts." "Yes, I know. It's part of your appeal." - and although there are some steamy scenes between the two, the murders hold most of the focus in this book. Along the way, we meet a rich set of secondary characters, from Nicky's family and coworkers to Hank's childhood friend Amelia who has married into the highest realms of New York society.
The pace of the story is good, broken down into days 1 through 10 of the infamous August 1896 heatwave that killed more people than the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. But when Nicky's life is in danger and the entire case hangs in the balance, the last 20% of the book races to a very satisfying conclusion.
I really enjoyed this book and if you are a history geek, as I am, I think you'll enjoy being immersed into New York at the end of the century. The historic August 1896 heatwave is true, and over 1500 people died during those awful ten days. People took to their rooftops to escape the heat, some falling to their deaths in their sleep. The mayor refused to let people sleep in city parks or to allow city workers to work night shifts to avoid the heat. Horses dropped from the heat, died on the streets, and were left to rot. Crowded tenements had no air circulation and no tap water, and ice was an unimaginable luxury.
FYI -- there were perhaps a half-dozen "fairy resorts" in the Bowery at the turn of the century, "nightclubs where rouged men mingled with brawny laborers and uptown swells" and wearing a red ascot was a subtle signal to fellow "inverts".