THE DEATHLY PORTENT:
A Lady Fan Mystery (Book #2)
By Elizabeth Bailey
Berkley Trade, 2012 ($15.00)
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
Elizabeth Bailey's second Lady Fan mystery, THE DEATHLY PORTENT, finds Ottilia (Tillie) and her husband, Lord Francis Fanshawe, with a broken down carriage outside the village of Witherley. All they need is a blacksmith to fix the damage, but the blacksmith is dead and the young Cassie Dale, a girl who sees visions, is accused of killing him by witchcraft. Much to Francis's chagrin, Tillie (a.k.a. Lady Fan) wants to go to the village and get to the bottom of the mystery.
She scoffs at witchcraft and knows it will take more than the protection of Vicar Aidan Kinnerton, which Cassie has, to stop a witch hunt. The reader gets to know the various villagers along with Tillie, and there are a myriad of suspects in their midst. Far too many people had grudges against the blacksmith for an easy solution to the murder.
And then another body shows up which gives Tillie more insight into the inner workings of the murder's mind. But she needs evidence not conjectures.
Bailey gives her readers numerous choices for the murderer, and this always makes for fun reading as the reader doesn't know whodunit until the end. There are a few points in the plot where the actions slows down, but historical mysteries involve much more investigative talk than action such as forensics that readers expect with more modern tales. So it works for the type of story and its time period.
While it's not possible to give depth to every supporting character, Bailey gives us enough history for her cast to guess at motives and get to know people even if only superficially. I particularly liked the banter between Lady Fan and her husband. As with most strong women investigators in Georgian England, Tillie has the spunk and wherewithal to use her smarts: a woman much ahead of her time.
While I'm a fan of reading any series in order, there are only brief references to THE GILDED SHROUD in this book, so readers could easily go back and read that one after THE DEATHLY PORTENT if so inclined. I'm hoping there will be more Lady Fan mysteries. As a huge fan of mysteries and historical ones in particular, this one fit the bill nicely.
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