In 1866 Detective, and Civil War veteran, Pat O'Malley's returns to the Five Points neighborhood of New York City to investigate the biggest case of his career. O’Malley is hired to search for Dr. Arthur Mergenthaler, a wealthy Jewish inventor and entrepreneur, after he goes missing from a protected wing of Mount Sinai hospital but after a hidden passage is discovered and another body turns up O’Malley begins to understand this case runs far deeper than he had imagined. Surrounded by a culture of anti-Semitism and racism, O’Malley disguises himself as an Oxford England Professor to infiltrate the anti-Semite’s group and return to the deep South to solve the case and locate the missing doctor.
Disappearance at Mount Sinai is the second Pat O’Malley mystery by Jim Musgrave but it is easily read as a stand-alone book. Set in post-Civil War America during a time of rampant racism and anti-Semitism the Irish Detective O’Malley from the Five Points neighborhood is hired to investigate the disappearance of a wealthy Jewish doctor. Musgrave captures the intense conflict of faith, race and prejudice from this era in American history almost immediately and it never lets go. The underlying current of prejudice and hate is what makes this story so intoxicating.
There is little to criticize about Disappearance at Mount Sinai and Musgrave’s talent shined with this mystery novel. The characters were delightful despite being flawed and hateful. I especially enjoyed the conflict between Pat O’Malley and his father. Detective Pat O’Malley is everything his father is not. He is sober and tolerant of various races and cultures whereas his father owns and operates bar in a rough Irish neighborhood in Five Points all the while hating anyone who is different than his own Irish folks. Their strained and yet deeply involved relationship was one of my favorite character highlights of the book. When you add Rebecca Charming, Shannon O’Hare, the Mergenthaler family and the anti-Semite group the cast becomes colorful and beyond fascinating. Disappearance at Mount Sinai does occasionally reference previous character interaction from Musgrave’s first O’Malley mystery but it only serves to provide a glimpse at history, there are never any gaps in story because this is the second in a series.
With every turn of the page this mystery became more complex and more intense. As would be expected, O’Malley originally questions the hospital staff and the immediate family about the disappearance of Dr. Mergenthaler. A few interviews and a couple of visits later O’Malley understands that this mystery goes well beyond this simple family. This case will prove to require all of O’Malley’s detective skills as he goes undercover to pursue an investigation against the military and top-ranking politicians and officials. Every page is thrilling and curious as the complexity of the case grows and threatens to spin out of control.
Jim Musgrave is an award-winning author and it’s easy to see why. The characters are well-developed and feel authentic, he captures the essence of America’s reconstructive era perfectly and the pace of the story is steady. The mystery is complex and dramatic without being far-fetched or cliché. Musgrave even nailed the dialogue and interactions between such strongly divided cultures. The conclusion, just like the rest of the book, does not disappoint. Disappearance at Mount Sinai is absolutely a mystery worth reading.
Review by Ashley LaMar