A Golden Cage (Newport Gilded Age Mystery #2) by Shelley Freydont (Berkley Prime Crime trade paperback, 7 June 2016).
Deanna Randolph is spending the summer with the Ballard family, at their "cottage" in Newport Beach, while her mother and sister are in Europe.
Although one would expect Deanna to be disappointed about this, she is thrilled to be away from her overly-strict parent, and under the guidance of the enlightened (some might say radical) Gwendolyn Manon, whom she calls "Gram Gwen". They are staying with Gwen's daughter Laurette and her husband Lionel Ballard, parents to Deanna's almost-fiance Joe.
As the story opens, the group are arriving at a birthday celebration for a local judge, whose wife and daughter have arranged a theatrical performance on the grounds of their house. Of course, nothing is done by halves, so they have arranged for a theatre to be built, and surrounded it by a carnival which includes a fortune-teller and a coconut shy.
Deanna has no idea why Joe has joined them, but she suspects it's to keep an eye on her (and she's right). Meanwhile, Laurette intends to look for with Amabelle Deeks, a member of the acting troupe, who is the daughter of a school friend.
The gilded age being a time of excess, the party runs into the early morning. At least it does for Joe, who reluctantly accompanies an acquaintance to an after-party on a yacht. Some of the female actors are on board providing "entertainment" for a rowdily drunk bunch of young men.
Joe nabs a plate of food from the buffet, and is enjoying it on a quiet corner of the deck, when he hears a loud argument. The voices are obviously male and female, though he doesn't recognize them. When he spots Amabelle looking exahusted and barely dressed, he convinces her to return to his parents' home with him.
The next morning, she has vanished, and one of her fellow actors is found in the conservatory with his head bashed in.
The judge's family pressure the police to apprehend a culprit immediately, whether guilty or not. Deanna intends to make sure that the right person is arrested, and Joe intends to keep Deanna out of trouble. Joe, of course, does not succeed.
As she did with A Gilded Grave, Shelley Freydont has produced a vivid portrait of the political and social changes occurring during the late 19th Century, especially the beginnings of the women's movement, wrapped in an intriguing and well-constructed mystery.
The publisher has generously offered a copy of A Golden Cage to one of my readers. Please comment below before 12:01 a.m. on June 13, 2016. Entries from the US only, please.
Please don't forget to include an email address where I can contact you if you win!
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.