She might be "just" a maid, but Jane Prescott is often the smartest person in the room. Death of a Showman, the lively and arresting fourth book in Mariah Fredericks's Gilded Age series, takes Jane to the tumultuous set of a Broadway play in 1914, where her employer, the wealthy Mrs. Louise Tyler, has found an exciting new calling as a patron. Complicating matters, the show is written and directed by Jane's former dancing partner, Leo Hirschfeld, who recently married one of the musical's chorus girls. Jane is less than thrilled to have Leo's wife on set--as are the other stars, who view Mrs. Hirschfeld as a threat. When the play's abusive and hot-tempered producer, Sidney Warburton, is murdered, everyone in the cast becomes a suspect, morphing the story into a fast-paced whodunit that puts Jane at the center of the investigation--and of at least one love triangle.
As the book's amiable narrator, Jane is clever, thoughtful and surprisingly streetwise. She is also obsessively dedicated to her work--in one amusing scene, she admonishes another servant for incorrectly arranging Mrs. Tyler's shoes. This devotion and absolute loyalty to the Tyler family make her even more charming. But as she watches Mrs. Tyler find purpose through her position at the theater, Jane realizes she also harbors a deep desire to do something more than tend to Mrs. Tyler's wardrobe. Her curiosity fuels her scrutiny of Warburton's murder, as well as her understandable wish to be loved and remembered when she's gone. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer