by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery #2
Publication Date: November 25, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
With the reluctant blessings of their father, the rector of Kurland St. Mary, Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave home for a social season in London. At the same time, Lucy's special friend Major Robert Kurland is summoned to the city to accept a baronetcy for his wartime heroism.
Amidst the dizzying whirl of balls and formal dinners, the focus shifts from mixing and matchmaking to murder when the dowager Countess of Broughton, the mother of an old army friend of Robert, drops dead. When it's revealed she's been poisoned, Robert's former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is accused, and she in turn points a finger at Anna. To protect her sister, Lucy enlists Robert's aid in drawing out the true culprit.
But with suspects ranging from resentful rivals and embittered family members to the toast of the ton, it will take all their sleuthing skills to unmask the poisoner before more trouble is stirred up. . .
I chose this book to read right before going to sleep at night because it’s a Regency historical cozy and would be a more calming read than, say, a thriller or a paranormal ghost story.
This was also dumb, because I enjoyed the story enough that I didn’t want to close the book and I ended up staying up too late three nights in a row.
Ms. Lloyd created excellent characters: likeable and flawed. The clincher for me is not that they are flawed, but that there isn’t any spotlight on the flaws; they weren’t created to give the characters something to overcome, they just are what they are. Lucy is too headstrong and independent for most of the eligible men of London, and maybe a bit too old. Oh well, she is what she is and she’s fine with it. Robert is a grumpy ass in a lot of pain (war wound). He’s a good person, just really not subtle and he’s short-tempered. He apologises when he offends, but well, it’s the way he is. Anna comes closest to a trope: beautiful, naive, sweet-natured, but she shows not only the expected flashes of temper but also appealing moments of rational thinking and decisive action.
The mystery concerns the death of a dowager countess during a ball at Almack’s – she was universally loathed so the suspects are thick on the ground. The plotting is complex, well-thought out and until the very end there are just too many people who could have done the terrible deeds that begin with that old woman’s death.
There’s a romantic element between Lucy and Robert but it’s ethereal at best; I would have liked a little more forward momentum and less of Lucy jumping to unwarranted conclusions. (The end was what griped me the most – the rest was fine.)
A great read and it looks to be a great series – I’ll be waiting for book 3.