RogerBW's Blog

A Place of Confinement, Anna Dean 15 August 2015

2012 historical detection, fourth in Dean's Dido Kent series. Dido is forced to act as companion to her elderly and wealthy aunt, but the house they visit has its own problems: a young lady has disappeared, perhaps to Gretna Green, but her guardian is curiously unconcerned about her.

Another strong entry in the series, with confusions of identity, relatives locked away "for their own good", a suspicious rock-slide, a book of sermons with unexpected contents, and a priest's hole. Some of the female characters are a bit on the dopey side, but the rich and horrid aunt turns out to have not the usual unexpected depths but instead quite different ones.

Some old friends reappear, including the ne'er-do-well son of Dido's admirer, who finds himself accused of murder – which of course threatens what little relationship there is. The mystery is probably more straightforward than in previous books, in part because of a paucity of plausible suspects, and Dido often comes over as harsh when she's questioning people (several of whom she has to go back to repeatedly); I suspect, having read the other books, that that's because she's on edge thanks to her unpleasant situation, though for that reason I wouldn't recommend this as an entry point to the series.

There's more emphasis than ever on the highly circumscribed lives available to women, and the near impossibility of the much-lauded marrying for love when men's and women's lives of the mind are so different, with such little contact between them, that they can have nothing to talk about on the rare occasions they are allowed to talk to each other at all.

Series recommended by Michael Cule. There has at the time of writing been no fifth volume, which I think a shame.

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