Wed
Apr 5 2017 2:00pm

Review: Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell

Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell is the 1st book in the Quaker Midwife Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

Life is rewarding for Rose Carroll. A midwife in Amesbury, Massachusetts, she provides care and support for newly born babies and mothers. But life is also challenging, as Rose is struggling to deal with the grief of recently losing her sister.

The year is 1888, and Rose goes about her duties and life adhering to her Quaker beliefs. A fire, which has some unexplained aspects, raises suspicions that all is not well in the community. Any doubt of that is wiped out when it is followed by two murders.

Rose has a natural nose for what is wrong and what is right as well as a very strong desire for justice. Taking advice from her neighbors and friends—amongst whom is the famous Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier—Rose seeks answers to the questions relating to the untimely deaths. She puts her skills as a spiritual and practical adviser and her natural penchant for solving problems to great use in this well-written, period crime thriller from the pen of Edith Maxwell. The characters come to life with great realism and resonance, as they are woven into the fabric of what is a very well-crafted historical novel. Delivering the Truth also delivers all the right ingredients of a proper crime thriller, including a detective of great fortitude: Rose Carroll. 

Nothing is as it seems, and there are people along the way who are not readily welcoming to Rose’s attempt to secure justice for the murder victims. The truth, as she finds out, is not everyone’s friend, and you must be careful about what it uncovers—as many wish it to be covered up indefinitely and will do anything to keep it that way. So it is for Rose, who refuses to be shaken off her journey to justice.

“I saw thee talking in town with one of my clients, Nell Gilbert. How does she seem to thee?”

“No, miss. You are mistaken. I don’t know no Nell.” He turned away.

So they both lied about knowing each other, unless it was a chance meeting. It hadn’t looked like one, though. They’d been speaking directly for several minutes, not the behavior of a stranger inquiring of directions from another, which of course neither would need, being local residents. I turned away, too, wondering why Jotham put me in mind of an actor instead of a sincere person.

Despite her busy schedule, Rose Carroll is a spiritual person who never allows herself to sway from the central tenet of her behavior, which is adhering to a code of righteousness. She is a delightful character, and Edith Maxwell does not use her to preach a weary sermon about right or wrong, rather she allows Rose to take the reader on a journey through another time, from another place. 

Along with all else that is going on, Rose has an admirer—a good looking doctor who is courting her with great diligence. She is not altogether unwelcoming to him, but the life of a detective is a full and busy one, particularly when you have to deliver babies—often at short notice—along the way. However, the good doctor is not the only person interested in developing things further with Rose.

“Miss Carroll! What a delight to see you.” Beaming, he reached for my hand and held it in his sweaty one.

“Greetings, Ned.” I pulled my hand back with some difficulty and surreptitiously wiped it on my skirt.

He lowered his voice. “When can I take you out on the town? I want to show you a fine time. Get to know you better and all that.”

He glanced around. 

“I hope you don’t mind me asking at such a solemn occasion.

I swallowed. “That is a kind offer. I’ll have to check my calendar and get back to thee.” Perhaps never, I added silently.

“Excellent, excellent.” He patted his stomach with satisfaction. A man across the room waved him over.

“I’ll talk to you soon, then.” he said before leaving me.

The balance between new life arriving and other lives being taken before their time is very well achieved and adds to the tension of the narrative. It is not all babies, courtship, and bicycles with one wheel larger than the other, though. Double-dealing, shadowy shapes in the night, and gunplay all make their appearance in this story, including a twist in the tale that keeps you guessing as to who is who and what is what right up to the end. Delivering the Truth delivers, right across the board.

 

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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.

Read all Dirk Robertson’s posts for Criminal Element.

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