Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Mystery & Detective / Historical
To stop the trafficking ring plaguing her city, Dr. Genevieve Summerford must dive into New York’s underworld
In early 1900s New York, the formidable crime syndicate known as the Black Hand has been terrorizing the city's Italian community with bombings and kidnappings. When a young Italian girl is found drowned and sexually defiled, Dr. Genevieve Summerford suspects the organization has expanded into forced prostitution, and she won't rest until the trafficking ring is brought to justice.
A Promise of Ruin, by author Cuyler Overholt, is the second installment in the Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery series. This is a series that is set in 1907 New York City. Dr. Genevieve is a specialist in neurology and mental therapy (psychotherapy). She is the first woman to practice in this advanced field, which we now take for granted. Unlike other psychiatrists, Genna specializes in healing the brain, not just the body. Genevieve is a young woman marked by her past.
She holds herself responsible for what happened to her younger brother, which in turn, drives her to be more passionate and more caring when it comes to others who have a variety of problems. After her romantic interest, Irishman Simon Finn, pulls a young woman's body from the river that shows obvious signs of abuse, Genna becomes aware of a group calling itself the Black Hand. The Black Hand is apparently into extortion, and preying on their fellow countrymen, which in this case, are Italians. But, are they also into sex trafficking and kidnapping?
What makes Genna get involved is a young Italian girl named Rosa who claims her friend is missing. A friend who recently arrived from Italy with hopes of marrying the boy she loves, and may have got caught up in something sick and twisted. I will agree with one aspect of this story. Italians really did take care of their own, and we always have. Italians carry a deep, dark distrust of police officers and the legal process that is supposed to protect the innocents. While this was a good and sustained mystery with some surprises, the parts that actually intrigued me were the ones that focused on the Italian Community.
As an Italian-American, I have often harped about the inconsistencies when it comes to Italian immigrants coming to the US. As one who knows all too well how my descendants were treated as they came ashore at Ellis Island, this story pains me to the bone. I know about how my ancestors were quarantined until they could show they didn't carry diseases. I know that my ancestors weren't allowed to leave unless there was someone there, IE a sponsor, who would take responsibility for them.
I know that my ancestors somehow made their way from lower Manhattan, where they lived in squalor, to Upstate New York where my mother was born and raised. A Promise of Ruin is a story about a group of people who lure young women from Italy with promises of marriage, and a new life, only to be sold into sex slavery. I don't think this issue has been raised to the level where anyone in this country can say that they are not OK with what is happening to these young women, girls, and yes, even boys for that matter. So, while Genna navigates her way through a decent mystery, the actual historical setting is what impressed me the most. For me, I could actually put myself into the story and feel as though the author did an impressive job creating a realistic setting and realistic characters like Pauline Goldstein, and Lucia Siavo. I am hopeful for another story in this series, but I feel rather satisfied at the way this story ends with Genna, Simon, and some new friends in a really good place.