Books by Robert Lee Hall

LONDON BLOOD by Robert Lee Hall
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 17, 1997

Seventh in a series set in mid-18th-century London and featuring the sleuthing exploits of inventor-statesman Benjamin Franklin as narrated, written, and sketched by his devoted, illegitimate, 15-year-old son Nick (Murder by the Waters, 1995, etc.). Franklin has been asked by blind Chief Magistrate John Fielding for help in solving the murders of two young women found weeks apart in central London, stabbed to death, their hearts cut out. The first was Tuesday Marrowbone, a prostitute; the second, Hester Ward, the wayward niece of Lord Bathurst, was unloved by her uncle but adored by Tom Elstree, her rejected suitor. The killings, and the cruel pranks of the so-called Dionysus Club, are written up in the London Courant by embittered Jack Scratch, nÇ Pyecroft, once of Oxford University, as were Elstree and the Club's swaggering leader Charles Ravenden, Earl of Chalton. As Franklin and Nick realize that all their investigations lead to Ravenden, he appears to challenge their pursuit with invitations to his London house and to the strange, carnally obsessed structures and caves at Chalton, his country estate. The murder of Jack Scratch; the visit of a guilt-racked Elstree; a trip to Oxford to scrutinize past records; and, once again, a brazen invitation from Ravenden to come to Chalton—all bring about a rousing denouement, its drama heightened by a nightmarish storm. Not too much puzzle in the puzzle here, but Nick grows ever more engaging, and the masterful London scene, pulsing with vitality and crammed with everyday horrors, provides an easy-to- take history lesson in a first-class entertainment. Read full book review >
MURDER BY THE WATERS by Robert Lee Hall
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 14, 1995

Number four in the Benjamin Franklin series (Benjamin Franklin and the Case of the Artful Murder, 1994, etc.) finds the inventor- statesman and Nick, his 13-year-old son, setting out on the two-day journey from London to Bath. Their carriage is shared with Dr. Woodridge, who hopes to set up practice in Bath; silent little F.J. Mossop, who hides a pistol beneath his oversized coat; and Mrs. Fanny Snow and her pretty, spirited niece, Emma Morland. Franklin has been invited to Bath by Arthur Brown, an expert on Roman history and artifacts. In his letter of invitation, Brown asked Franklin to guard Emma, who lives next door to him with her aunt and her uncle Edgar. Franklin is convinced that the letter had been opened and resealed but hasn't a clue as to why. Mid-journey the coach is waylaid by a highwayman who holds Emma hostage until help arrives with the dramatic appearance of handsome Lord Edmund Darly. Franklin is the target of a later attack—thwarted because of his own vigilance and his growing feeling that something's amiss. Arrival in Bath confirms his suspicions, as Emma is courted by Darly and taken round the city's baths, balls, walks, and shops by Darly's well-connected friend Mrs. Valentine. Nick wonders why Darly seems afraid of his surly manservant, Albert Noakes, and why their own aged neighbor, Isaac Hobhouse, is so unfriendly. Meantime, Emma acquires a second suitor—gambler Tom Bridger—while Arthur Brown yearns for her speechlessly. There are spurious identities galore, a murder, and a kidnapping before Franklin sorts it all out and effects a just-in-time rescue. A glowingly alive evocation of the era's Sin City, a nicely mystifying puzzle, and Nick's charming narration—all make for the best of this series so far. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 16, 1994

The latest in the Ben Franklin series (Murder at Drury Lane, 1992, etc.) finds the renowned statesman, inventor, and sleuth searching for the lost Shenstone diamond. The gem, which disappeared while being painted onto a portrait of Lady Shenstone, is worth a king's ransom, and the lady is desperate to retrieve it before her husband learns of its absence. To this end, she engages Mr. Franklin, who takes on such cases to relieve the boredom of political life in London. Franklin places his illegitimate son, Nick Handy, in the studio of James Cavitty, the painter, to discover what he can. What Nick discovers is that the artist's household is rife with intrigue—secret lovers, mysterious engravings- -and that any number of people, both in and out of the house, might have taken the precious stone. When Nick finds Cavitty dead among his paintings, Franklin takes over the murder investigation as well. Was Cavitty killed for the Shenstone diamond, or could it have something to do with a destroyed copperplate? Leave it to the man who discovered electricity to find out. A charming little mystery, cleverly plotted with nice 18th-century flavor. Read full book review >
MURDER AT DRURY LANE by Robert Lee Hall
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 18, 1992

Ben Franklin, spouting fewer aphorisms than before (Benjamin Franklin and the Case of Christmas Murder, etc.), sits through a David Garrick production at London's Drury Lane Theatre when unlikable heckler Dudley Midge tumbles from the balcony and dies. Who pushed him, and does it relate to the threatening notes that Garrick's been receiving? Franklin, accompanied by illegitimate son Nick, reconnoiters backstage, sifts through theatrical gossip and romantic dalliances, and quickly connects two arson attempts with the letters, Midge's death, and the death of actor/playwright Abel Drumm, dispatched backstage in a bit of scene-machinery. There'll be one more death before Ben, busy with his graphology, and Nick, involved with his sketching, proclaim the Drury Lane safe from performers-in-disguise who had sad love stories to avenge. A lively glimpse of noted 18th-century figures, and a tart discourse on the reputations of actresses and women in general. Overall: a pleasurable read for fans of the historical mystery and a possible recommendation for bright YA readers. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 2, 1990

Second in a series featuring aphorism-spouting Ben Franklin as detective, his 12-year-old illegitimate son Nicolas as his amanuensis, and London of the mid-1700's. Here, sweet Cassandra Fairbrass beseeches Mr. Franklin to rout the late-night ghost who has her father's face and who stalks the family house—and her father's not even dead! Is it an omen? A West Indian poison soon does Mr. Fairbrass in; someone drops a sprig of rosemary on the corpse; and the man's creditors—from a rigged gaming hall—promptly converge on the widow, who adamantly fends off Franklin's attempts to help her. Undaunted, Ben takes samples of everyone's fingerprints; chats up the family banker, the Jewish jewel merchant, the toy purveyor; beats off a passel of cutthroats; and solves the case when he unravels the relationship between a sea captain, a blackamoor, and Fairbrass's twin, Lemuel, supposedly off in the Caribbean. Overly simple and often cliched (that twin!) but filled with period color, including the prevailing racist attitudes. Read full book review >