SUP WITH THE DEVIL
By Barbara Hamilton
Berkley Prime Crime, 2011 ($14.00)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
It is April 1774, and Boston residents are on edge. A few months before, the Sons of Liberty dumped a cargo of tea into the Boston harbor, and they know King George will not let this act of rebellion go unpunished. Abigail Adams, wife of one future president and mother of another, puts aside her worries about a British invasion when she receives a disturbing letter from her nephew, Horace Thaxter. He asks if he can call on her about a serious matter when her husband returns from Maine. Abigail doesn't wait, taking off for Harvard, where Horace is a student.
He is somewhat taken aback by her visit, as women aren't particularly welcome at the college, but he is relieved that she has come to help him. He tells her he'd gotten a letter from her husband vouching for a lady named Mrs. Lake, and based on that he agreed to meet with her. She asked him to use his linguistic skills to translate a letter written in Arabic, a most peculiar letter. He claims that the job almost cost him his life. Abigail determines that the letter is a forgery, but before she can begin to investigate the mystery woman, one of Horace's friends is brutally murdered. His slave is the one and only suspect, caught literally red-handed, drunk and asleep only feet from the body. Abigail doesn't believe Diomede, the gentle, kind man she'd met the night before, is capable of the crime, and neither do Horace's friends. She sets out to find the real killer before Diomede is sent back to Virginia and executed for the crime.
She uncovers several possible motives for the murder, including politics and love. Then there's the cursed books and possible pirate treasure. The victim was a staunch Tory, supporting the King in an area where many people opposed him; he was a well-known ladies' man with a trail of broken hearts to his credit; the only things taken from his room were some books that had belonged to a man some believed to be in league with the devil, a man who was also a pirate in the late 17th century.
SUP WITH THE DEVIL is the third in the Abigail Adams mystery series, and it is even more enjoyable than the previous two, THE NINTH DAUGHTER and A MARKED MAN. Ms. Hamilton makes Boston on the eve of the Revolutionary War come alive. The historical details are fascinating, as is the depiction of daily life at the time, and the mystery is well-plotted. Abigail Adams is a delightful protagonist. Judging from what is historically known about her and her husband, it is totally believable that she might have done some sleuthing, with her husband's approval. I look forward to the future adventures of this eighteenth-century Jessica Fletcher.
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