Book Review: The Great Mrs. Elias

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) The Great Mrs. Elias – Barbara Chase-Riboud

This novel combined two of my favorite things…history and mystery!! Chase-Riboud intertwines a real-life murder investigation with the life story of Hannah Elias and her ‘rags-to-riches’ experience of the early 1900’s in Philadelphia and New York. 

Hannah Elias is born in Philadelphia and has a childhood checkered by both good and bad experiences. The traumatic experiences of her childhood lead her into a particular life that is unacceptable to her once loving family and she is left without any kind of support system which is devastating for a black woman in the early 20th century. But Mrs. Elias does not ‘go quietly into the night’; rather, she relocated to New York and starts her life over in a place where no one knows her and she can determine the course of her life. 

Throughout her life in New York, Mrs. Elias amasses a fortune which rivals the richest robber barrens of the age! However, when an old acquaintance reappears with plans to murder Hannah and one of her clients, Mrs. Elias’ real identity, quiet life, and fortune are all at risk…especially considering she is a black women!! 

This book took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I very much enjoyed it! There is more history/storytelling of Mrs. Elias’ life than murder mystery to the novel but Chase-Riboud did a nice job of combining the two narratives in a meaningful and interesting manner. I am looking forward to reading more from this author as her other books have gotten quite a bit of acclaim!

Read on my friends!

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