Susanna Calkins debut novel is a captivating historical mystery which documents A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate. Set in seventeenth-century London, the novel tells the story of Lucy Campion, a chambermaid turned amateur sleuth, as she struggles to find her place in society and prove the innocence of a wrongly accused family member.
Restoration London was a time of social upheaval and religious turmoil. The Quakers were in conflict with the teachings of the Church of England and the citizens were taking sides. This clash provides the perfect backdrop for a story filled with secrets, guilt and murder.
Calkins quickly introduces the reader to Lucy Campion and her fellow servants in the Hargrave household. Talk turns to the disappearance of a local servant girl, but it is only after a second girl is found murdered that fear of a possible serial killer starts to spread. When her friend and fellow servant, Bessie is found dead in Rosamund’s Gate, Lucy is shocked that suspicion falls on her brother. After all, Rosamund’s Gate is a park known as a meeting place for courting lovers.
Aided by Adam Hargrave, Lucy sets out to clear her brother’s name. Calkins wisely uses this plot device as a way to explore the changing court system in England at the time. Readers begin to see the beginnings of rights for the accused and the evolution of the defense system. Susanna Calkins weaves these details about the workings of the court into the story seamlessly.
The nineteen month period that the novel covers also sees the arrival of the plague to London. Healthy family members are separated from their loved ones, while servants are asked to sacrifice their own health for the sake of their service to the household. Lucy refuses to allow this major event to derail her efforts to help her brother, but she also never forgets her duty to the Hargrave family, who have been nothing but kind to her.
All is not doom and gloom, however, as Calkins also explores the budding relationship between Lucy and Adam. Being on very different sides of the class system, these two mix like oil and water. The road before Adam and Lucy is anything but smooth. These two complex characters will keep readers wondering what path their destiny is going to take.
After many red herrings and unexpected twists, the climax of the novel arrives against the backdrop of the great London fire of 1666. Given that the working title of the second novel in this series is From the Charred Remains, readers can expect that the fallout from the devastating tragedy will be felt into this sequel.
Without a doubt, Susanna Calkins fans will be eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Lucy Campion as she navigates her way through the London of the past.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.