An English aristocrat must contend with ominous letters being sent her way in Monajem’s historical mystery series starter, set in the early 1800s.
Lady Rosamund Phipps is simply trying to get a cup of milk in the middle of the night when she finds one of her footmen dead on the stairs. She takes this news to the magistrate, Sir Edwin; while in his office, she meets Gilroy McBrae of Scotland, whose direct manner of questioning about the servant’s demise challenges her sense of propriety and thoroughly rankles her. Although Rosamund believes the death to be accidental, this doesn’t prevent rumors of criminality from circulating about her—as well as discussion about the agreement she has with her husband, Albert, who’s canoodling with her best friend; the loose talk is brought to life in broadsheet caricatures by a mysterious artist named Corvus. Soon afterward, she begins receiving threatening, anonymous letters that say such things as “I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU,” which Rosamund believes were sent to make her go insane. She sets off to investigate the missives herself—and the identity of Corvus. Monajem deftly pens prose that feels distinctly of the Regency era in which the tale is set; Rosamund, in particular, seems very much like an upper-class woman of the period, with her rigid notions of status and gentility. Yet she also has engaging traits that set her apart and keep her from being a stock character, such as the aforementioned arrangement with her spouse and an apparent compulsiveness that requires her to check and recheck things multiple times. Similarly, the characterization of Gilroy is further proof that a companion that’s equal parts dashing and frustrating is often a winning one. The story takes its time getting started, but overall, Monajem succeeds in providing readers with a witty, enjoyable historical mystery.
An intriguing and clever work that will appeal to fans of Regency-era fiction.