I’m rambling through one of my favorite periods: the Nineteenth Century, a time of great innovation and invention… and mystery.
In Death Comes to London, by Catherine Lloyd (Kensington, 2014, $24.99), it’s 1817, the Corsican Monster is safely stowed away on is remote Atlantic Island, and Major Robert Kurland is looking forward to a quiet country life on his newly-acquired manor. His neighbor, Miss Lucy Harrington, is heading to London with her sister Anna, to enjoy the London Season and possibly snare a husband. The two of them collide at Almacks, the ultra-exclusive club where young ladies may be presented to possible mates, just as a vicious dowager collapses. Poison, not apoplexy, is the cause, and soon Major Kurland and Miss Harrington are engaged in a search for an elusive poisoner with a taste for medical research and a cabinet of curiosities. Miss Harrington and Major Kurland made a good team, as they uncover not only the present plot, but solve a twenty-year-old mystery as well.
A Virtuous Death, by Christine Trent, (Kensington, 2014, $25.00) takes her heroine, undertaker Violet Harper, back to Buckingham Palace, at the bidding of Queen Victoria. Still mourning the death of her husband, Prince Albert, the queen is dependent on her chief servant, the Scotsman John Brown, whose talents apparently include contacting the dead. When one of the Dear Departed sends a warning message, the Queen insists that only Violet can find the answer to the mystery. Violet discovers more secrets in the royal family than she wishes to know: the youngest princesses are chafing at their mother’s strictures, while her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, is being called as a witness in a messy divorce case. What has any of this to do with the deaths of young women associated with the struggles for Women’s Rights? Is there a threat to the Queen herself? Violet’s courage is matched by her discretion, and the Queen is pleased with the results. An Author’s Note explains some of the details of the Royal Household, and adds information about some of the historical characters mentioned in this book.
A real-life sleuth takes the stage in Raymond Buckland’s second outing for theater manager Bram Stoker in Dead for a Spell (Berkley, 2014, $15). London’s theatrical world is buzzing with the news that the American actor, Edwin Booth, is planning to join England’s major star, Henry Irving, at the Lyceum Theater, sharing the stage and roles in a new production of Othello. As if that’s not distraction enough, one of the young ladies of the company turns up dead, murdered in an occult ritual. Has someone resurrected the old Hellfire Club? Or is this connected somehow to the visiting Americans? A pair of criminal brothers, a tarot reader, and a dealer in weird potions all play a part in a scheme whose motive is as twisted as its originator. As before, a look at an aspect of Victorian society rarely seen, through the eyes of one whose interest in the occult and the dramatic would soon produce one of the great works of fiction.
Alyssa Maxwell visits American royalty in Murder at Marble House (Kensington, 2014, $15.00), the second of her Gilded Newport mystery series. Emma Cross, a distant relation of the wealthy Vanderbilt clan, is called to the side of her cousin Consuelo, who is being pressured to marry the Duke of Marlborough by her formidable mother, Alva. Alva is behind this marriage, which will crown her place in New York Society, regardless of Consuelo’s feeling for the duke. She’s even called in a fortune-teller to convince her reluctant daughter that the marriage was Meant To Be! But the woman is found dead, strangled with her own scarf, and Consuelo has vanished! Has the heiress been kidnapped, or has she simply eloped with her true love, playboy Winthrop Rutherfurd? Emma searches Newport’s high and low ends of Society, and discovers plenty of material for blackmail, including a family secret that leads to murder, An Afterword explains what happened to Consuelo and her mis-matched Duke.
Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings for the Feb/Mar 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.