Author: Robin Paige
Publication: Berkley (July 1, 1998)
Description: Kate Adrleigh is everything the Victorian English gentlewoman is not--outspoken, free-thinking, American...and a writer of the frowned upon "penny-dreadfuls." Soon after her arrival in Essex, England, a body is unearthed in a nearby archeological dig--and Kate has the chance to not only research her latest story...but to begin her first case with amateur detective Sir Charles Sheridan.
My Thoughts: Kate Ardleigh is the 1894 version of a modern American girl. When she learns that she has an aunt who lives at Bishop's Keep in England and who wants to hire her as her secretary, she is eager for the adventure. Kate has been making her living as the author of serial stories filled with mystery and sensationalism. She views the opportunity to travel to a foreign country as a perfect opportunity to research her books.
Kate hardly expects to find murders, buried family secrets and secret societies in her real life. Nonetheless, that is what she finds when she arrives at Bishop's Keep. She quickly becomes close to her Aunt Sabrina who is a free thinking woman who is interested in the spiritualism that was so popular in the 1890s but she doesn't at all care for her Aunt Jaggers who is the very embodiment of the poor relation come to live with her sister and very resentful of her. She is also a very harsh disciplinarian of the servants whom she feels will go bad with any sort of indulgence - like sugar for their tea or carpets and a fireplace in their lounge. Naturally, this has caused the atmosphere at Bishop's Keep to be very uncomfortable filled as it is with sullen servants. It also leads Kate to wonder what hold Aunt Jaggers has over Aunt Sabrina that Sabrina would allow her sister such free reign in the household.
Our hero is Sir Charles Sheridan. He is a man of means who is interested in science and photography. He enters the story when he takes pictures of a corpse at an archaeological site he is photographing and becomes curious about the murder. He meets Kate who is also making inquiries about the murder on her aunt's behalf. While Charles is fascinated with Kate, he doesn't quite know what to make of a woman so different than the upper class women who are the fixtures in his life. While he is more liberal than the usual Victorian male, he still holds on to some cultural views about women that Kate is constantly upsetting.
I enjoyed the mystery and the wonderful depiction of Victorian England. I can't wait to read more stories about Kate and Sir Charles.
One of the hazards of having sufficient money to be at one's leisure was the hazard of continually finding oneself bored by the banality of one's existence and hence forced to seek new forms of intellectual stimulation. Murder was most stimulating.This title was recommended. I bought it for my Kindle. You can buy your copy here.