Book Review: A MURDER AT ROSAMUND’S GATE by Susanna Calkins

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Publisher: Minotaur Books
Released: April 23, 2013
Source: Review copy from the publisher

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy falls under suspicion. Lucy can’t believe it, but in a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn’t kill the suspect first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never find out what really happened. Unless, that is, she can uncover the truth herself.

Determined to do just that, Lucy finds herself venturing out of her expected station and into raucous printers’ shops, secretive gypsy camps, the foul streets of London, and even the bowels of Newgate prison on a trail that might lead her straight into the arms of the killer.

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Lucy Campion is a maid for Magistrate Hargrave and his family. When another household servant is murdered, the blame falls on someone very dear to Lucy. She quickly learns how difficult it is to prove one’s innocence in the English courts of her time. Since it appears the law is not interested in discovering the truth, Lucy sets out to find it on her own.

Likes: For me, this book was more than a mystery. It was an eye-opening look at what London was like in the mid-1660s, including the plague and fire that ravaged London, class struggle, the plight of women, and the laws of the time. The author’s engaging writing style made it easy to slip back into the past and experience these things with Lucy.

I loved Lucy’s character. She was smart, dedicated, and strong, and despite her station in life as a woman and a servant, she dreamed of something more for herself than society deemed acceptable. I had to grin at her hesitance to get married someday, because she would have to leave the magistrate’s book collection behind.

The mystery was good, definitely piqued my interest. I changed my mind about who I thought the culprit was several times throughout the book. It was interesting how murder ballads and broadsides (cheap, sensational stories sold to the masses) played into the mystery.

Dislikes: Personally, I don’t have any complaints about this book. However, die-hard mystery fans may feel cheated that the actually mystery doesn’t always take center stage. The story is just as much a vivid portrayal of life in 17th century London, oftentimes uncertain and unjust.

A MURDER AT ROSAMUND’S GATE is an entertaining historical mystery with a touch of forbidden romance. I enjoyed Ms. Calkins’ debut novel, the first of a planned series, and I’m ready for Lucy Campion’s next adventure!

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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