London, recovering from the devastation of the Great Fire of 1666. Lucy Campion, now a printer’s unofficial apprentice, bumps into Sarah, the daughter of the magistrate for whom Lucy used to work as a chambermaid. Sarah has become a Quaker, an unpopular religious following at that time, and asks Lucy to accompany her back to the house where she is staying. There she encounters Jacob Whitby, the leader of the group who is dying, having fallen under a cart. But with his dying breath, he tells Lucy that someone in the household is not a true Quaker – and that someone pushed him under the cart.
Lucy can’t help but try to find the truth, but soon she and her friends find Jacob’s sister – also murdered with a scold’s bridle fastened about her face. With Sarah possibly at risk in the Quaker household, Lucy is determined to find the murderer before they strike again…
This is the third book in the Lucy Campion series from Susanna Calkins, who was kind enough to ask me to take a look at it after my positive review of the first in the series, A Murder At Rosamund’s Gate. Haven’t had a chance unfortunately to take a look at the second in the series, From The Charred Remains, but I’m determined to do so at some point. These books really are rather impressive.
First off, there’s an appeal to me in the setting. In UK schools, the seventeenth century basically goes Civil War – Cromwell – Restoration – Plague – Fire. If that. So I basically know nothing about life in London following the devastating blaze, and the author brings it to full and vibrant life. Whether it’s the idea of publishers actively seeking out stories – especially dying words – to publish and sell them, or the searchers, people who seek out dead bodies for money, the differences to the modern world and modern sensibilities really bring the world of the past alive.
Lucy is a well-constructed heroine, an independent-minded woman who stills feels as if she belongs in the world she lives in – too often female leads in past novels have modern sensibilities that feel completely out of place, but the author has done an excellent job in avoiding that pitfall.
Plot-wise, this is a complex tale. Perhaps the identity of the killer becomes clear a little too early, and perhaps the cluing isn’t as fair as it could be, but the overall tale is an intriguing one with slow and steady reveals that help to build up the big picture.
So overall, a very impressive historical novel with an intriguing plot. Highly Recommended. It’s out on 14th April, according to Amazon. Oddly, not available as an ebook (like its predecessors) which is a little odd.