Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy

second-street-stationSecond Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy
Series: Mary Handley Mystery #1
Genre: Historical Mystery, Police Procedural
Setting: Brooklyn, 1888
Published by Broadway Books, 2015
E-book, purchased
336 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Mary Handley is a not your typical late-nineteenth century lady. She’s fiery, clever, daring—and she’s not about to conform to the gender norms of the day. Not long after being fired from her job at the hat factory for insubordinate behavior, Mary finds herself at the murder scene of Charles Goodrich, the brother of a prominent alderman and former bookkeeper of Thomas Edison. When Mary proves her acumen as a sleuth, she is hired by the Brooklyn police department—as the city’s first female policewoman—to solve the crime. The top brass of the department expect her to fail, but Mary has other plans. As she delves into the mystery, she finds herself questioning the likes of J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla. Mary soon discovers the key to solving the case goes well beyond finding a murderer and depends on her ability to unearth the machinations of the city’s most prominent and respected public figures, men who will go to great lengths to protect their secrets.

Much like Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and Maisie Dobbs, Second Street Station presents a portrait of a world plunging into modernity through the eyes of a clever female sleuth. Mary Handley is an unforgettable protagonist whose wit, humor, and charm will delight readers from the very first page.

“I no longer wish to be a scientist or philosopher, Mother.”

“Really?” said a relieved Elizabeth, thinking this awful incident may have somehow netted a positive result.

“I’ve decided I want to be a detective.”

Elizabeth flinched. This daughter of hers would never give her peace.


The irony of Sean’s becoming a policeman didn’t escape Mary, though she didn’t believe he had chosen that profession as a protruding middle finger to their lifelong sparring.

Initial impressions

  • Fascinating historical mystery set in Brooklyn in the late 1800’s with historical characters.

The story

  • When twelve-year-old Mary finds a murdered man on a train she tells her mother she wants to be a detective (much to her mother’s irritation).
  • The grown up Mary is a factory worker in a hat factory instead of a detective.
  • Mary decides to find out who murdered a friend’s fiance. He is also Thomas Edison’s bookkeeper so this is a high-profile murder.
  • She comes to the attention of the police and the press and the police make her the first woman police officer. She doesn’t realize that some of the “higher-ups” expect and want her to fail. But she has support from other people in the police department.


  • Mary Handley is a great character. She’s an intelligent, likable and tenacious young woman.
  • It’s ironic that her brother does become a police officer and that Mary works in a hat factory when she grows up.
  • I like all the historic characters in this book–JP Morgan, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla. It’s really interesting to read about them. Even Mary Handley is a real person. The murder is based on a real murder.
  • The historic aspects of the story are very enjoyable.
  • There are red herrings in the mystery!


  • There are a few coincidences in the book. Parts of the book don’t seem very plausible. However, Mary is a fun character plus the historic aspects make the book enjoyable.

And concluding thoughts . . .SecondStreetStation_Map

  • A map of Mary Handley’s Brooklyn, 1888-1890 is on Mr. Levy’s website. It’s great!
  • I’m looking forward to reading the next book soon!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • LAWRENCE H. LEVY is a highly regarded film and TV writer who is a Writers Guild Award winner and two-time Emmy nominee. He has written for various hit TV shows such as Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, Roseanne, and SeinfeldSecond Street Station is his debut novel and Brooklyn on Fire is his second book.

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