Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Murder, Treachery and Treason in the Regency

A Wrexford and Sloane Mystery #1
Andrea Penrose
Kensington Books
June 27, 2017

A clandestine meeting of shadowy figures in a church culminates in a grisly murder. The victim is the Reverend Josiah Holworthy, a pompous churchman who has been carrying on a very public feud with the Earl of Wrexford. The Reverend has held up the Earl as the very personification of wickedness. Enter Charlotte Sloane, a caricature artist with a wicked pen and a large following. She works under the pen name of A.J. Quill and guards her real identity jealously. As a woman, she would never be allowed to publish. Her late husband, Anthony, had used the name and she is forced to take up his trade to stay afloat. Charlotte has developed a number of sources and is able to get into the church between the discovery of the body and the arrival of the Bow Street Runners. Not only are the Runners eager to pin the murder on Wrexford, but the drawing Charlotte publishes the next morning of the horrible scene inflames all London against him. Wrexford must investigate the murder to save his own neck and his first order of business is find out the identity of A. J. Quill. Charlotte and Wrexford form an uneasy alliance, aided by a pair of street urchins that Charlotte has befriended. The two plunge into a swirling abyss of murder, alchemy, forgery, and treason with an explosive ending.

The Regency Era is a fascinating time in which there was great interest in science and new discoveries. The scientists working in The Royal Institution, led by Humphry Davy were the celebrities of their day and their discoveries followed and heralded by both the "ton" and the general public. Science and chemistry play a large part in the the story, forming a background to what is an excellent mystery and ripping good yarn. Both Charlotte and Wrexford are well-developed characters: Wrexford, very much the aristocrat of his time, but possessing a soft center, and Charlotte, who is a woman with a steely will and secrets of her own. She was obviously gently born and extremely well-educated but has sunk out of that circle of society. I am looking forward to learning more about her story and watching what is an obvious attraction between Wrexford and herself develop. The supporting characters, particularly Raven and Hawk, Charlotte's two street urchins are also welcome additions.

I thoroughly enjoyed Murder on Blak Swan Lane. Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions above are my own.

RATING- 4.5 Stars

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