Desert Isle Keeper
A Study in Murder
Bestselling historical romance author Callie Hutton makes a memorable cozy mystery debut with A Study in Murder (book one in the Victorian Book Club Mysteries). Hutton succeeds in crafting a compelling murder mystery featuring a captivating, fabulous woman detective that hooks readers with clever humor and a palpable undercurrent of romance.
Lady Amy Lovell is an upper-class Victorian woman who bucks convention by writing mystery novels under pen name E.D. Burton. Even though she supports women’s rights and suffrage, she is unable to escape a betrothal to shipping businessman Mr. Ronald St. Vincent. When Amy learns from an anonymous source that her fiancé is involved in criminal activity, she promptly breaks off the engagement. Shortly after the breakup, St. Vincent visits Amy’s family home unannounced and is found dead in the library with a knife in his chest.
The police immediately target Amy as the prime suspect. Determined to avoid the noose, Amy launches her own investigation with the help of her long-time acquaintance and fellow Mystery Book Club member, Lord William Wethington. As St. Vincent’s secrets are revealed and the list of suspects grows, Amy and William are determined to sidestep the police and catch a killer, even if it means missing tea time.
Hutton’s well-drawn characters and vivid historical details completely immersed me in Lady Amy Lovell’s fascinating world of Victorian manners, Assembly dances, and the secrets and scandals of high society. I especially enjoyed our mystery writer-turned-sleuth protagonist. Lady Amy possesses all of the qualities that I admire in a historical fiction hero and an amateur crime solver. She champions for justice, displays great intelligence and determination, and has personality in spades. In fact, Amy even has a snappy catchphrase – “botheration”, which she exclaims to herself in her frequent internal monologues. (Ever the urbane lady, Amy keeps her expletives and irreverent comments to herself, which is a delight to read.)
A Study in Murder’s intrepid main character is joined by a spirited
supporting cast. The upstanding Lord William Wethington is aces as Amy’s reliable sidekick and budding love interest, and Eloise Spencer, a member of the ‘lower’ merchant class, amuses as Amy’s best friend. Spinster Aunt Margaret lives life on her own terms and is harboring a mysterious secret, which will hopefully be explored in the sequel. Last but not least is adorable Pomeranian, Persephone, who won’t ‘talk’ to Amy if she is left home alone.
Hutton deserves praise for her tightly constructed plot and deliberate pacing, which allows the reader time to savor each interaction and to process the steady flow of information and clues. Some might find the story to be slow-moving, but I appreciated how the pacing appropriately reflects the tone of poised decorum emblematic of elite Victorian society.
While there are a few predictable moments, there are enough surprises and teasers placed at the end of each chapter to keep the reader engaged. I’m happy to say that I was kept guessing at the murderer’s identity right up until the end. Honestly, I was mildly disappointed that the resolution is a ‘murderer self-reveal’ instead of a ‘murderer unveiling.’ I typically prefer detectives to definitively figure out whodunit before the murderer confesses to their crime.
Callie Hutton’s Victorian Book Club Mysteries is my hands down favorite new cozy series, and Lady Amy Lovell is my new number one sleuthing hero. I highly recommend A Study in Murder to mystery lovers, but especially to fans of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody historical mystery series and fans of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Murdoch Mysteries TV shows. I can’t wait to read the sequel!
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or local independent bookstore
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