Murder in Bloomsbury by D.M. Quincy (Historical Mystery Novel, February 2018).
An award-winning journalist, D.M. Quincy turned to fictional crime successfully with Murder in Mayfair, a historical mystery set in early 19th century England. That introduced readers to Atlas Catesby, an aristocratic world traveler turned amateur detective.
Here, Catesby and those around him return to get involved with a second case in his class-obsessed England, governed by the Regent for Mad King George. It’s a very capable evocation of that specific time and place, with plenty of interesting characters, social and romantic tensions, and a decent mystery.
Gordon Davis was born into the working/servant class, but had a taste for the money, prestige and (most especially) the women of the social upper crust. He dies of poison, but the authorities write it off as an accidental overdose. His sister doesn’t believe it and she turns out to be the personal maid of Lady Lilliana Warwick, the widow Catesby helped in the previous novel. Lilliana contacts Catesby and enlists his help in finding out the truth.
It’s important to know that, although Catesby is certainly what his society considers an gentleman, he isn’t quite in Lady Lillianna class. Atlas wasn’t his father’s first-born son, so his brother got the royal title and most of the money. By contrast, Lillianna is a high-born Lady, albeit one with more concern and understanding for the working class than is typical for her time. It all refers back to the first book, but rest assured Quincy fills all this in with skill–you don’t need to have read the first novel and you’re never subjected to the background info-dumps lesser authors occasionally fall prey to.
The complication, of course, is that Atlas and Lillianna are deeply attracted to each other–though neither will admit it, even to themselves.
As they look into Davis’s life, they turn up a long list of possible suspects who might’ve wanted the young social-climbing seducer dead. The countless women he dallied with (most but not all wealthy and ‘connected’) and outraged male relatives (including a certain Lord who is presently romancing Lillianna).
And while the young man’s death is proven to be no mere accident, is it an outright murder–or something more complicated? Davis, indeed, had plenty of dark secrets.
The subplot of Catesby and Lilliana’s not-quite-forbidden romance is important to the ongoing series. If the marriage-minded Lord proves innocent, he intends to step aside because he thinks his rival is a more ‘suitable’ husband for her. Accordingly, he lays plans for more international travel once the case is solved.
But what if the unspoken yet strong-willed love of his life has other ideas?
Her choice pretty much assures that this entertaining historical mystery series will continue beyond the present volume wit its regular cast intact. That’s good news for the readers, including yours truly.