Bellefield Hall (originally published in England as A Moment of Silence) is a cozy, a Regency mystery, and a debut novel introducing Dido Kent, a maiden aunt. While Dido is under 30, as an unmarried woman in the early 1800's, she has some Austen-like sensibilities.
I liked Dido; she is a combination of intrepid sleuth, and at the same time, a product of her cultural era--interesting contradictions. I found her inability to see certain situations for what they were (a modern reader picks up on them immediately) amusing and realistic.
Plot: Dido's niece requests her presence at Bellefield, the country estate of the Montague's. Catherine is engaged to Richard Montague, but on the eve of their engagement announcement, he receives unexpected news, and he suggests that Catherine break the engagement. Then Richard leaves. On the day of Dido's arrival, the body of an unidentified woman is discovered, and Dido must resolve Catherine's difficulties as well as solve a murder mystery.
What carries the book is the combination of intelligence and innocence of the protagonist. Part of the narrative is advanced through Dido's letters to her sister Eliza; in the letters, Dido feels free to allow her satirical bent, her opinions of the other house guests, and her suspicions have free rein.
The book is light and amusing, and I hope the author can let Dido's character grow and expand in future novels.
Fiction. Historical Mystery. 2008. 300 pages.