Monday, July 15, 2013

Felicity Reads: A Murder at Rosamund's Gate

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy falls under suspicion. Lucy can’t believe it, but in a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn't kill the suspect first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never find out what really happened. Unless, that is, she can uncover the truth herself.

This debut novel is a solid traditional historical mystery set against the backdrop of religious turmoil, plague, and the Great Fire in 1665-66 London. The author has a Ph.D. in history, which is obvious both from the general accuracy of the time period in the novel* and the way the text is gently educational, sort of like an American Girl book for adults. (I mean that in a good way.) It's nice to find a traditional murder mystery that's not "cozy" but also not trying to be overly edgy or obsessed with its own clever structure. I eagerly await the next in the series, next year.

* I'm no expert, so I can't say exactly how accurate it is, but I'm reasonably well informed and few things stuck out at me as seeming wrong. (And in her notes at the end, Calkins explains why she made some of the changes she did, which I always appreciate.)

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