RogerBW's Blog

A Woman of Consequence, Anna Dean 17 July 2015

2010 historical detection, third in Dean's Dido Kent series. On a visit to a supposedly-haunted ruined abbey, a young lady slips and falls, saying in her delirium only "I saw her – it was her". Was it the Grey Nun of legend?

This book takes full advantage of its Regency background, and puts in the sort of incident that one starts to expect from having read plenty of Georgette Heyer. There are Bad Men a-plenty, a governess with a mysterious background, the natural child of someone with a reputation to lose, and plenty of threat even if there's not much actual peril for Dido (which is only proper; she's a respectable unmarried lady).

I believe that every family which has any claim at all to grandeur should have a ghost. I consider it a kind of necessary which should be attended to as soon as the fortune is made and the country estate purchased.

Dido has only just been employed by Mrs Harman-Foote, who's providing lodging to the injured Penelope, to find out what happened to her, when a pool is drained in the course of landscaping works and turns out to have contained a skeleton: not the Grey Nun, though that's the first assumption, but a lady who vanished some fifteen years past. That's ruled a suicide, and Mrs Harman-Foote applies to Dido again, to disprove that verdict and have the remains moved to hallowed ground.

That is, of course, authorial artifice, to give Dido good reasons to explore both cases. But it's artifice that largely works: Dido has a reputation at this point, and Mrs Harman-Foote could reasonably have heard of her.

The mystery itself piles revelation on revelation, perhaps with slightly too many characters for my modern taste but it's entirely in keeping with the period. I didn't spot the solution, though in retrospect it all seems reasonably well signalled. Perhaps a little less in keeping with the usual expectations of works set in the Regency is the despair at the position of women even in wealthy families, but it's not an anachronistic attitude.

In the ongoing plot, Mr Lomax returns, and he and Dido conduct the experiment of speaking with each other plainly. This is at last an encouraging account of two people falling headlong into love with each other, while neither wants to give up their own habits of thought. It may not reach a definite conclusion here, but there is a distinct sense of progress, as well as of genuine obstacles placed in the couple's path.

Most crucially, Dido has learned some discretion: unlike her last outing, she doesn't blab her half-formed theories to anyone who'll stand still for long enough to hear them, and she's sensible to the suffering that even the truth can cause if she lets it loose carelessly.

Series recommended by Michael Cule, and for me this is definitely the best of them so far. Followed by A Place of Confinement.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1