I've long enjoyed this historical Regency mystery series, but I have to admit this one is not as engaging as previous books. What is interesting is the emphasis on the situation in which women found themselves during this period. We tend to forget how circumscribed the lives of women have traditionally been.
Jane Ambrose, a talented musician, is murdered, and the plot revolves around the surprisingly numerous suspects for such a kind and talented woman. As a music tutor to Princess Charlotte, her connections to the royal family have placed her in a precarious situation. Her husband may also have had a reason to kill her. Her brother and a dear friend have been imprisoned for their writings against not only the Prince Regent, but against much of the Tory ideology, but even the Whigs may have been willing to sacrifice lives at the political alter. Jane may have overheard something at the homes of one of her pupils that has to do with smuggling and the French. On and on, there are suspects and possible motives.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount of Devlin, becomes involved in Jane's death because his wife Hero discovered the body. So...there is the basic plot. Sebastien and Hero visit suspect after suspect, all of whom deny murdering Jane.
It is interesting to see, in the context of fiction, the way Jane's life has been restricted and hemmed in by the strictures of society. A brilliant musician, Jane is reduced to becoming a tutor for children because women were not allowed to perform. Her art has been censored by social norms, not by law. Her husband can beat her, and she has little recourse. Divorce was legally possible, but not an option for most women because husbands would take their children.
I was reminded of the book Censored: A Literary History of Subversion and Control which I read in January and in which there is a section on Frances Burney, whose writings were stifled and controlled by her father and her mentor because writing for the stage was considered inappropriate for women.
Interesting aspects of this historical mystery include the corruption of the court and politics, the common people and the poor who were neglected or used as cannon fodder, and the fact that no mattered how intelligent or how talented, women were confined by the dictates of a male dominated society. As a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, however, I found it much slower than previous novels.
Read in April; blog review scheduled for May 4
Historical Fiction. April 3, 2018. Print length: 368 pages.