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A MARKED MAN
By Barbara Hamilton
Berkley Prime Crime, 2010 ($14.00)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Abigail Adams knows, as soon as she reads the notice in the newspaper, that a young slave woman is not a runaway, but a victim of foul play. As she explains to her husband John, no woman would willingly leave two very young children behind, especially if those children might be sold into slavery themselves. John isn't so sure. Their discussion is making them late for the Sabbath church service, and just as they're going out the door, John's firebrand cousin Sam Adams shows up with the news that Harry Knox has been arrested. Harry is a bookseller with a hidden printing press on which he prints material for the Sons of Liberty, whose members include both Sam and John. He is not being charged with sedition or treason, however, but murder. It is just ten weeks after the Boston Tea Party, and the relationship between the Loyalists and the rebels in Boston is growing increasingly strained. Harry's arrest could prove to be disastrous for the Sons of Liberty, and Abigail knows she must take action.
The engagement of the wealthy and powerful Sir Jonathan Cottrell to Lucy Fluckner, daughter of an aristocratic Boston Loyalist family, was to be announced at the governors' ball, but the groom-to-be is a no-show when it came time for the announcement. His body is found in a nearby alley early the next morning, frozen solid. Knox is the prime suspect, not only because he is in love with Lucy, who returns his affections, but because he had recently threatened to kill Sir Jonathan for mistreating Lucy. She despised Sir Jonathan, who was a cruel, arrogant man with a reputation for taking liberties with servants and other unwilling women. Just before his murder, the slave girl, Bathsheba, a particular target of his unwanted advances, disappeared, and there is reason to believe he may have harmed her.
Abigail has no doubt of Harry's innocence. She wants to prove that not only because she knows it to be true, but because if he is tortured in a British prison he might reveal the names of others in the Sons of Liberty, including her husband. She lives in fear that her husband's alliance with the rebels will lead to his arrest, but she agrees with his wish for freedom from England's harsh rule.
She finds unlikely allies in her investigation, including Lieutenant Coldstone and Sergeant Muldoon of the King's Army. The men have become, if not her friends, at least respectful acquaintances since they worked together to solve a murder the previous year. While Abigail is opposed to many of the English policies, she does not approve of the bullying, stone-throwing, and worse the British soldiers endure from the citizens of Boston. Most of them, she realizes, are young men far from home, just trying to do their job.
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite series. It can be difficult to use an historic figure in a work of fiction, but Ms. Hamilton makes Abigail Adams and other famous people such as John and Sam Adams and Paul Revere come alive on the page. All the sights, sounds, and smells of Boston in 1774 paint a vivid picture of life at that time. This is a thoroughly enjoyable sequel to Hamilton's first Abigail Adams mystery, THE NINTH DAUGHTER.
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