A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is a historical mystery set in London during the Restoration (available April 23, 2013).
I’m the type of reader who loves a thrill ride, especially set in somewhere unfamiliar and fascinating. Which makes me not quite the right reader for this beautifully written book.
A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is set in the time after Charles II’s Restoration in London, and revolves around a servant trying to solve the murder of her friend. I was eager to read a mystery set in the time period, as it’s one not normally covered in mysteries.
The story, a debut by Susanna Calkins, has a great many strengths. I was immersed in the world of Lucy Campion, a maid in the home of a well-to-do family in London. The upstairs/downstairs division between Lucy and her fellow servants and the family they serve was particularly well-drawn, and her duties and responsibilities were laid out in fascinating detail, including how to get rid of household waste. The trips to the market were similarly interesting, especially when, early on, Lucy is slyly able to retrieve an item stolen and return it to the rightful owner. There’s also a lovely sequence in which the servants gather at a local party while their employers celebrate in more royal style.
The murder of one of her fellow maids, which seems connected to a previous death, sets Lucy on an investigation to find the culprit, especially after her brother is accused of the crime. In this, she has the help of the heir of the house, though it’s unclear whether he is helper or killer for a long time. The climax, set during the Great Fire in London, is exciting and the reveal of the murderer’s identity.
The story itself moves slowly. At times, it seems far more interested in detailing Lucy’s everyday life than in the murder plot and the secondary romantic plot. I could put this down without worrying about the characters, partly because, while I admired Lucy, her actions seemed inconsistent. She’s well versed in the downstairs politics but for a girl growing up after tragedy in her life, she seems a little too naïve about sex or the perils related to men’s attention. At one point, she goes to visit her brother in prison and encounters several threats to her person. I’d call it an act of courage but Lucy seems unaware of how dangerous descending into a prison, even to visit, could be.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves historical details and a fascinating glimpse into the time period, and the book does pick up after about 200 pages. I just wish the mystery had been as enthralling as their everyday life.
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Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, thought not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.