Inferno on Fifth
by Marlie Parker Wasserman
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Pub Date 25 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 15 Nov 2023
Level Best Books, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles
St. Patrick’s Day, New York City, 1899. Spectators along Fifth Avenue, unaware of impending doom, enjoy the parade and the bands playing Irish tunes. Suddenly marchers halt at the immense and luxurious Windsor Hotel, watching terrified women at upper-floor windows cringe at the flames—and then leap. Within two hours, the fire kills close to one hundred people.
What set it off? An ember from a cigar? Robbers who sparked the fire as a distraction? Broken boilers in the basement?
Spunky hotel guest Marguerite Wells decides she and her two wealthy friends can discover what started the terrible inferno while three newly jobless hotel maids struggle to figure out how they can survive.
Inspired by the true story of the shocking fire that leveled one of Manhattan’s elegant hotels twelve years before the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Inferno on Fifth prompts readers to ask how they would react in the defining seconds of an irreversible tragedy.
A Note From the Publisher
“Wasserman moves with great assurance through the Gilded Age, creating a fascinating cast of characters in a tale that seamlessly merges fiction and history. The fast-moving mystery story will keep readers glued to the page, connecting with themes that resonate as deeply today as they did a century ago, as the book winds to an exciting finish.”
— R.J. Koreto, author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes, Alice Roosevelt, and Historic Homes mysteries
“Marlie Wasserman takes us on a hair-raising ride in her new historical novel, Inferno on Fifth, based on the infamous Saint Patrick’s Day, New York City, Windsor Hotel fire in 1899, immersing the reader in a version of what might have happened. Through this fast-paced work, rich with historical detail and multiple upstairs/downstairs perspectives, we relive the horrific event and its aftermath. Her vivid characters, most rooted in actual history, transport us 120 years back when fire construction laws were archaic, palm greasing all too commonplace, and women sleuths underestimated.”
— Jane Loeb Rubin, author of In the Hands of Women and Almost a Princess
“What a great read! Wasserman keeps readers on the edge of their seats, delivering a hair-raising account of one of New York City’s most horrible fires. Inferno on Fifth takes us back to 1899, lets us in on the fallen grandeur of the Windsor hotel, the secrets of its wealthy patrons, the impoverished staff, and the whodunit of it all. This story puts us inside the very flames and has us praying we’ll make it out alive.”
— Chris Keefer, Author of No Comfort for the Undertaker, a Carrie Lisbon Mystery
“Was it a freak accident, intentionally set, or the result of inadequate regulation? Marlie Wasserman’s meticulously researched novel imaginatively reconstructs events leading up to the disastrous 1899 Windsor Hotel fire in New York. Through a diverse cast of characters—rich and poor alike—whose lives unwittingly intertwined on a fateful spring day, she explores the complex motivations behind acts of bravery and flights of conscience.”
— Kathleen B. Jones, author of Cities of Women
“In Inferno on Fifth, Marlie Parker Wasserman meticulously reconstructs the story of the luxurious Windsor Hotel fire, the deadliest fire in New York before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which, twelve years later, led to dramatic and long-overdue fire safety legislation. In Wasserman’s riveting account, the workers—whose lives did not interest contemporary reporters—join the wealthy protagonists of the late Gilded Age to play a critical role in a gripping historical narrative.”
— Edvige Giunta, coeditor of Talking to the Girls: Intimate and Political Essays on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire