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City of Light: 05/11/08
City of Light is a historical drama set during the time that Buffalo New York was converting to electricity with the building of turbines at Niagara Falls. I read the book primarily for the setting and I loved the way Buffalo and Niagara Falls were described. It is in the building of the setting that Lauren Belfer excels.
Peal away the interesting history and what is left is a rather dull and obvious Agatha Christie type mystery mixed together with a Victorian melodrama. Louisa Barrett, the head mistress of a local girls school finds herself in the middle of a series of murders related to the new power station at Niagara Falls. As the father of her god daughter is the owner, she feels compelled to solve the mystery to protect the people she loves.
If the mystery wasn't enough, there is also Barrett's own personal tragedy and the truth behind her fondness for her God daughter who appears to be clinically depressed after the death of her mother.
The relationship between Louisa Barrett and Grace is where I started to lose interest in the book. I know I was supposed to feel empathy for Louisa for all the heartbreak she has suffered but I never really connected with her. Her personal story is buried under all the historical descriptions and the clues for the mystery to such a degree that it doesn't make sense for the novel to end on her personal tragedy because it feels like an after thought.