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THE GILDED SHROUD
A Lady Fan Mysteries, Book 1
By Elizabeth Bailey
Berkley Trade, 2011 ($15.00)
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
It's fair to say the Marquis and Marchioness of Polbrook could barely stand each other, so it's no wonder that the Marquis is suspected when his wife is found murdered in the night and he's disappeared. The house is in total disarray until Ottilia (Tillie) Draycott a new companion to the Marquis' mother steps in to help. Thankful to lean on someone else for guidance, Lord Francis Fanshawe, the Marquis's younger brother, finds himself pinning his hopes for clearing his brother-in-law's name on Ottilia while others want to make sure the Marquis hangs.
As with most Regency-era heroines, Ottilia is outspoken and unconventional. Her first discovery that a fan, a Family heirloom along with some of the Marchioness's jewels has vanished starts her on the path to fitting the puzzle pieces together. Ottilia also finds a key in the nightstand drawer and suspects the Marchioness used it to let in her numerous lovers. The question is which one is the culprit? Few barriers impede her investigation; no lives are in danger; and it's a matter of asking the right questions. Even though there isn't a ton of suspense about whodunit, it's a fun story with elements of romance, a little more than in traditional cozy mysteries but not over much. Think somewhere in between Susan Wittig Albert and Amanda Quick. I can't think of a cozy mystery set in the regency period for comparison. Bailey has a nice touch with character development and weaves in political unrest of the time of which there is much with the French Revolution in progress.
That said, Bailey is somewhat long-winded in her prose, but her ability to create strong characters both of the nobility and the servant class balances this for the most part. While this book didn't send my heart rate into overdrive, I liked the characters and I love the period. Fans of character-driven cozy mysteries with a touch of romance and those who especially enjoy the Regency era should check this one out. I, for one, plan on reading the next in the series. I have to say that I still don't get the title though.
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