In the first of a new series, Roberta Rogow introduces the law firm of Pettigrew and Roth, comprised of the esteemed Ephraim Pettigrew, his niece, Margaret ("Peggy") Pettigrew; 25 years old and employed for a few dollars a week for the past ten years as his clerk, and the junior member of the firm, Joshua Roth, whose best friend, Michael Riley, is an assistant district attorney and Uncle Ephraim's prize protege. The firm's offices are maintained in an office on West Street, looking out on the docks of the west side of New York and the Hudson River. The time is 1870 New York City, five years after the end of the Civil War, with all habits of class and race distinctions and Polite Society of the day firmly in place.
The firm has been hired by one Henry Ward Long, whose family is definitely a member of the city's High Society, to defend his nephew, one Bertram "Broadway Bertie" Delacorte, against a charge of murder. Delacorte has been accused, on scant evidence, of murdering Mrs. Suzanna Kendall. Roth succeeds in having the charges dismissed and the case against him thrown out at arraignment when none other than Peggy herself provides the man with an ironclad alibi. The celebration of their victory is short-lived, however, when Delacorte's dead body is fished out of the Hudson River less than a day later. Mr. Long asks the firm, "in good faith and in good conscience," to find the killer. The unlikely trio of Peggy, Michael and Josh set out to find the killer of both Mrs. Kendall and Bertie Delacorte.
The title derives from the suspicion among the protagonists that while Delacorte was without doubt not Mrs. Kendall's killer, he almost certainly was guilty of something - they're just not sure what. The author achieves a distinct voice for each of the three narrators as their investigation proceeds. The era is painstakingly and it would appear faithfully set forth before us, including some real-life characters, to fascinating effect, evoking the world of Boss Tweed and the infamous Tammany Hall. The book is a well-written and very quick read, perfect for late summer, and is recommended.