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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review - Murder on Black Swan Lane

I loved Andrea Penrose's Lady Arianna Regency series beginning with Sweet Revenge (click here), The Cocoa Conspiracy (click here), and Recipe for Treason (click here), plus an interview with the author (click here).  She has started a new historical mystery series that I was excited to read and review.  Check out what I thought.

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: June 2017 (Kensington) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Wrexford and Sloane Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Earl of Wrexford, former military man and amateur chemist teamed with Widowed Charlotte Sloane, a satirical cartoonist under the name A.J. Quill

Setting: Regency era, London England

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From the book cover: "The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London’s most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.

An artist in her own right, Charlotte Sloane has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A.J. Quill. When Wrexford discovers her true identity, she fears it will be her undoing. But he has a proposal—use her sources to unveil the clergyman’s clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer. Soon Lord Wrexford and the mysterious Mrs. Sloane plunge into a dangerous shadow world hidden among London’s intellectual enclaves to trap a cunning adversary—before they fall victim to the next experiment in villainy"

Charlotte Sloane has been scraping by financially since her husband died and she took up the satirical cartoon drawings he had done. But she still cares for a pair of homeless boys (Raven and Hawk), feeding them from her scant rations and clothing them. She is practical, rational, observant and an excellent artist.  She is also educated in Latin and well read, hinting that there is more to her background than meets the eye.

Earl of Wrexford, Wrex for short - never a first name, even with his friends - is a scientist in outlook which makes him different than other wealthy or titled peers.  He is faced with accepting he could be arrested for the murder, even though he didn't kill the man.  He has to keep his anger in check and investigate the murder better than the bow street man.  Tyler, his valet, is primarily his lab assistant and secondly his valet.  Tyler is a gem and challenges his Lordship.  Wrexford's best friend Christopher Sheffield has a gambling problem and is always in need to funds that his father will no longer provide.  But, when Wrex needs someone to watch his back, Christopher is right there in the investigation.  Henning is the anatomist dealing with autopsies of the dead, an old military doctor that Charlotte has known for a while and Wrex knew in the military.

The descriptions of London were just enough to set the stage and the rest is left to the reader's imagination.  I had no problem with that and felt the stage was set with atmosphere enough for me.  Even Charlotte's small place in a rough neighborhood was atmospheric for me.  I enjoyed how the settings were used to increase the tension.

The plot contained plenty of misdirection and red herrings to keep me guessing.  The final solution was more involved than I expected.  The pacing was maintained, keeping my interest throughout.  The killer confrontation is full of suspense and wonderfully well done.  The wrap-up raises the question of Charlotte's education and leaves the door open for them to work together again.

I have to say that I greatly enjoyed this novel.  It was entertaining and kept my interest in the characters and the investigation.  The two boys, Raven and Hawk, are delightful, and the subtle attraction between Wrexford and Charlotte is fun to watch.  There were an instant or two where I thought a phrase was more modern, but that didn't detract from the story for me.  I can't wait to jump back into the Wrexford and Sloane world again.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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