I adored the first book in this series (’A Moment of Silence’), which combines two of my great loves – the Regency era, and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple-style amateur sleuth. So this one was a no-brainer. It isn’t quite as successful as the first book, but it’s still a delightfully enjoyable read. The writing is authentically Austen-esque, the mystery is intriguing and the sleuthing rattles along at a merry pace.
In fact, it’s almost too fast a pace. Our amateur detective, Miss Dido Kent, has only to poke her nose out of doors for her to bump into someone with information to impart, or else she overhears something of vital import, or she calls on someone and they obligingly tell her exactly what she wants to know. All this become increasingly implausible, frankly.
One aspect which bothered me somewhat was the numerous similarities to Jane Austen’s Emma. I suppose it’s done as an affectionate homage, but every time we had a strawberry-picking party or the characters start making anagrams with double meanings, I was knocked out of this book and straight into another book. And there’s one parallel that actually gives away a plot element, which felt all kinds of wrong to me (although there’s a twist at the end which partially ameliorates the situation).
This is not a conventional Regency romance, but there is a romantic story simmering beneath the murder, which was begun in the first book, and continues swimmingly here. It leads, in fact, to some interesting (and spirited!) discussions between Miss Kent and her paramour, he feeling that she should be guided by him and give up this nasty sleuthing business, and leave everything to the constables, and she feeling that such submissive behaviour would rip out her very soul. And really, the root of the problem is the nature of marriage in such a patriarchal society as Regency England, where women were very much expected to submit and not worry their pretty little heads with… well, anything very much outside the domestic sphere. I enjoyed this element of the book very much.
Another excellent read, beautifully written, with the murder mystery and romance threads nicely balanced. Very enjoyable and highly recommended. Five stars.