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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Review: Death at Bishop's Keep

Title: Death at Bishop's Keep
Author: Robin Page
Page Count: 296 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Cover Summary:
Kate Adrleigh is everything the Victorian English gentlewoman is not--outspoken, free-thinking, American...and a writer of the frowned upon "penny-dreadfuls." When Kate arrives in Essex, England, she shocks the household at Bishop's Keep -- and captures the interest of amateur detective Sir Charles Sheridan as they begin their first case together.

A dead body has been uncovered at a nearby archaeological dig. The investigation provides the perfect research for Kate's fiction. But the curious writer may be digging too deep -- especially when the trail leads her into a secret occult society known as the Order of the Golden Dawn...

I LOVE IT when I discover a new to me series that's already really well established. I had seen this title recommended in the Outside the Box: Best Adult Mysteries list over at Alison Can Read and it sounded interesting, so it went on one of my million lists of books to remember and I picked it up at the library. I'm so glad I did- this was a fun one!

Kate is all the things I enjoy in a female lead character- she's a smart person who uses her resources and is observant and emminently Practical. She's leading an interesting double life as a novelist in a time when novels weren't the omnipotent entertainment source they are now, and they certainly weren't supposed to be written by women. She's making a way for herself on her own and finds herself being offered employment by a previously-unknown relative and is off to England.

Once she gets there, she finds there are actually two relatives she didn't know about- a nice aunt (the one who offered her the job) and an evil hell-beast of an aunt, who takes personal pleasure in making the household staff miserable. Nobody can figure out why Hell Beast Aunt Jaggers is around since absolutely nobody likes her- could it be that she's holding something over her sister?

I loved the way everything became an inspiration for Kate's books, even the dead guy that turned up at a nearby archaeological dig.   Through her poking around at the scene, she meets Sir Charles Sheridan, who finds himself intrigued by Kate's plain speaking and observations.  She's certainly nothing like anyone he's met before, and her insights are key to figuring out the puzzle of the murder. It's pretty broadly shared that these two end up married as well, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series to see how that all comes about.

I should be clear, though, this is definitely an historical mystery first and a romance a distant, distant second.  There are enough romantic elements to make it clear that we're headed in that direction but the historical elements and the solving of the murder take center stage.  I enjoyed the obvious research that went into the book, especially the information about the spiritualist movement and the renewed interest in ancient Egypt.

Because this series is a longstanding one, it was a bit of a challenge to track down the next book in the series (I'm reading in the order of the events in the series, and not release date- that was confusing too.)  Paperback Swap came through for me though, and I'm looking forward to getting the next book so I can dive in.

Overall Rating:

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