Friday, 12 April 2013

A Murder At Rosamund's Gate

Author: Susanna Calkins

Published: April 2023

What They Say:  In Susanna Calkins's atmospheric debut novel, a chambermaid must uncover a murderer in seventeenth-century plague-ridden London.

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 Lucy’s brother is wrongly arrested for the crime. 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 them first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see her brother alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer.

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.

In her debut novel, Susanna Calkins seamlessly blends historical detail, romance, and mystery into a moving and highly entertaining tale.

What Elaine Says: The first in a series of historical murder mysteries, Murder at Rosamund's Gate just didn't work for me.  Unengaging and rather (I'm afraid to say) hackneyed, the plot seemed flimsy and while I've read worse, I can't really think of any off hand! 

Calkin is a history scholar and there are some interesting historical tidbits in here but unfortunately her characters and writing style are not remotely accurate historically.  In fact there are moments of modernism that actually made me balk.  Calkin does try to negate this in an authors note which states: ""At times, I took minor liberties for the purposes of creativity and readability, using far more modern phrasing and spelling than people would have used in seventeenth-century England". Unfortunately this approach has resulted in completely inconsistent characters and narrative as well as a continuous questioning of any historical facts presented.

One positive is that while I didn't necessarily enjoy the novel, I did finish it.  This makes me think that possibly there is a market for the novel (and subsequent series) in the 'young adult' genre. 

In short, Calkin has tried to be both historian and author.  At one she succeeds (in part) but at the other I'm far from convinced. 

Elaine's Rating: 2/10


"No one gave Lucy and Adam any mind as they made their way through the streets, but Lucy looked about, always eager to connect with the life that teemed about her.  Servants from large houses and the wives of merchants scurried about with baskets, bargaining for fresh vegetables, meats, breads, and other goods.  All about, traders sang their wares."

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