Newfound family wealth draws a teenage Virginia farm girl into a murder mystery set in upper-crust England in the 1820s.
Sixteen-year-old Katherine is handy with a rifle and well-versed in the demands of farm life. But after the death of her grandfather, a wealthy English gentleman, Katherine and her older brother, George, are whisked away to Walthingham Hall, their new home and unexpected inheritance. With the help of her cousins Grace and Henry, Katherine attempts to adjust to life on the sprawling English estate and to the restrictive culture of the rich. But the day after Katherine and George’s formal introduction to high society, aspiring artist George drowns under mysterious circumstances. Katherine is convinced that George’s death was no accident, but the list of possible suspects—including the Beast of Walthingham, a wild creature rumored to stalk the estate—is anything but solid. Fragile too are Katherine’s own safety and sanity, as she mourns her brother and searches for his killer. Katherine’s romantic longings are woven quite deftly into this mystery, but she’s no damsel in distress—a fact that will resonate with readers who enjoy smart, resourceful characters. Katherine’s boldness and lack of pretension, as well as the novel’s strong plot and crisp dialogue, will appeal even to those who aren’t fans of the stuffy, sterile pre-Victorian era. Unsurprisingly, given the setting, all of the principal characters are white.
A fast-paced, satisfying historical novel with a gutsy heroine and an intriguing 19th-century mystery at its core. (Historical mystery. 12 & up)