Friday, May 17, 2013

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins

Review by

In Susanna Calkins's atmospheric debut novel, a chambermaid must uncover a murderer in seventeenth-century plague-ridden London

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 she loves is wrongly arrested for the crime. 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 them first--public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see this person alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer.

Determined to do just that, Lucy finds herself venturing out of her expected station and into raucous printers' shops, secretive gypsy camps, the foul streets of London, and even the bowels of Newgate prison on a trail that might lead her straight into the arms of the killer.

In her debut novel, Susanna Calkins seamlessly blends historical detail, romance, and mystery into a moving and highly entertaining tale.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is a historical mystery set in 17th century London. Lucy Campion is a chambermaid who works for the Hargraves family. When one of her fellow maidservants turns up murdered like two other women before, and her brother is falsely accused, Lucy quietly begins to unravel the facts.

I don’t read a lot of mystery novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The Restoration period of England gave the book an interesting backdrop, as did the details of the deadly plague, which struck the country’s population during that same period, followed by the great London fire of 1666. There were plenty of unpredictable twists, capricious and compelling characters, and a tense but satisfying ending! So, there was plenty of historical details and horrors to keep me reading to the end. This whodunit kept me guessing to the very end as to which one of the characters was the notorious serial killer. Flowing prose, good pacing, and a humdinger of a good plot makes this cozy mystery one to add to your shelves.

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