Murder at the Elms (A Gilded Newport Mystery)
by Alyssa Maxwell

About Murder at the Elms

Murder at the Elms (A Gilded Newport Mystery)
Historical Cozy Mystery
11th in Series
Setting – Rhode Island
Kensington (August 22, 2023)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1496736192
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1496736192
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BNCLTC7P

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, the illustrious Vanderbilt family dominates Newport, Rhode Island, high society. But when murder arrives, reporter Emma Cross learns that sometimes the actions of the cream of society can curdle one’s blood in the latest installment of this bestselling cozy historical mystery series . . .

1901: Back from their honeymoon in Italy, Emma and Derrick are adapting to married life as they return to their duties at their jointly owned newspaper, the Newport Messenger. The Elms, coal baron Edward Berwind’s newly completed Bellevue Avenue estate, is newsworthy for two reasons: A modern mansion for the new century, it is one of the first homes in America to be wired for electricity with no backup power system, generated by coal from Berwind’s own mines. And their servants—with a single exception—have all gone on strike to protest their working conditions. Summarily dismissing and replacing his staff with cool and callous efficiency, Berwind throws a grand party to showcase the marvels of his new “cottage.”

Emma and Derrick are invited to the fete, which culminates not only in a fabulous musicale but an unforeseen tragedy—a chambermaid is found dead in the coal tunnel. In short order, it is also discovered that a guest’s diamond necklace is missing and a laborer has disappeared.

Detective Jesse Whyte entreats Emma and Derrick to help with the investigation and determine whether the murdered maid and stolen necklace are connected. As the dark deeds cast a shadow over the blazing mansion, it’s up to Emma to shine a light on the culprit . . .



Guest Post by Alyssa

Thank you for having me on the blog today! When people ask me what I write, I start off by saying mysteries. If they seem particularly interested, I’ll add that I write historical cozies. Which is a bit different from historical mystery.


How, you ask? Like with contemporary mysteries, historical mysteries can involve a large geographical area, numerous suspects, and wide-reaching stakes, such as national or international intrigue. Think war, spies, treason, sabotage. Historical mysteries might also include some adult themes such as graphic language, violence, and sexual situations. The sleuth might even be a spy, detective or police officer, or work in an official capacity for a government agency.


Historical cozies, on the other hand, follow a lot of the same guidelines for contemporary cozies. Although, while contemporary cozies might have themes such as crafting, cooking, antiquing, or bed & breakfast scenarios, for example, historical cozies tend not to involve any of those. After all, most of those activities were simply part of life in past eras. But what historical cozies do have are small geographical areas: for example, a village or small town, island, or country estate. The suspects are limited in number, typically four or five. Most of the characters know each other, and the stakes are more personal—the killer’s motivation is usually rooted in greed, jealousy, or revenge. The sleuth will be an amateur, often pulled into investigating because either the victim was a loved one, or a loved one is being accused, and the authorities don’t seem to have a clue. She will solve the case using her wits, rather than forensics. And you probably won’t find graphic violence, language, or sexual situations in a historical cozy.


My two series, The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady & Lady’s Maid Mysteries, fall in this category. In the former, my sleuth, Emma Cross, is a journalist who has inherited a house, a small annuity, and a strong sense of independence from her great aunt Sadie. Emma treasures that independence and is willing to work hard to maintain it. She’s a Vanderbilt relative but without their great wealth. And she isn’t willing to accept their generous offers of financial help because she knows doing so will chip away at her freedom.


Another legacy from Great Aunt Sadie is helping those less fortunate, especially her fellow women. Sadie, and now Emma, always opened their front door to any woman in need of shelter and a second start. That’s why, when the victim in Murder at The Elms turns out to be a young immigrant housemaid who wouldn’t go on strike along with the other servants, Emma wants to see her killer caught. So while she only met this young woman days before her death, it’s still personal to Emma. There are so few people willing to make an extra effort for women in general when it comes to justice, but especially for a working-class woman new to this country. 


Another characteristic of a cozy is the sleuth doesn’t tend to investigate all on her own. Her family and friends play important roles in tracking the clues, whether it’s finding out information they’re somehow privy to, or simply acting sounding boards as the sleuth reviews what she has learned so far. Emma has what she calls her makeshift family. Yes, she’s a Vanderbilt cousin, but she rarely involves those relatives unless the crime has impacted them directly. Her own parents are living in France with the artistic set, so for now, they’re out of reach, but Emma has her former Nanny, now her housekeeper; her maid, Katie; her friend on the police force, Jesse Whyte; a nurse at the Newport hospital, Hannah Hanson; and Emma’s love interest whom she recently married, Derrick Andrews. All of these characters play pivotal roles in supporting Emma and helping her solve the case. 


Which leads me to yet another characteristic of cozy mysteries, whether contemporary or historical: the character arc. From book to book, we watch our sleuth learn from her experiences, grow, seize opportunities, forge new relationships, and gradually become more confident—and competent—in her sleuthing. 


But the most important aspect of a cozy mystery is the invitation extended to the reader to follow along, collect the clues, listen to the witness’s claims, and solve the case first—if you can!



About Alyssa Maxwell

Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a fiction author. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband have make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the South Florida Fiction Writers.

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