Madison Square is the first in a proposed series of “Rone Cuddihy” mysteries.
1910. Heiress Julia Morris vanishes two blocks north of Madison Square and her powerful family wants answers. So does deputy police commissioner Tyrone Cuddihy. Why did the Morrises wait more than a month to report Julia's disappearance, especially as two young women had already gone missing near the Square? The Morrises, particularly Julia’s sister Ardith, are anything but forthcoming.
Perhaps the Morrises would have been more cooperative had they known that following the disappearance of the first two women, cryptic notes were received at police headquarters. “She was blithe, good and gay” said the first; the second “Her eyes were fair. Her beauty made me glad.” Both notes, inexplicably signed with the letter “O,” contain a lock of the missing women’s hair meticulously braided in black ribbon.
Then a note for Julia Morris arrives at police headquarters.
When another young woman disappears, the notes are made public, and the city is whipped into frenzy by the yellow press demanding that the police find the “Madison Square Fiend.”
The mystery escalates when the “Violet of Madagascar” –– the priceless sapphire Julia Morris was wearing the morning she disappeared –– arrives in the mail without explanation at the Morris townhouse.
When Elspeth Gray, the daughter of a clergyman fails to return home, a terrorized city comes to a standstill, and there is an outcry for Cuddihy’s dismissal.
Cuddihy barely has time to notice. Turn-of-the-century New York bristles with suspects for him to investigate, from dissolute socialites, to society dressmakers and financiers to transvestites and foreign gigolos.
Once the riddle behind the notes becomes clear, Cuddihy is on his way to solving the mystery. But as he untangles the fate of the missing women, the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Julia Morris only deepens, as do his feelings for her younger sister Ardith.