A Gentleman of Fortune
This is the second novel featuring amateur detective Miss Dido Kent and is set during the Regency period. This was a new author for me and a very welcome one at that; although second in a series, the book stands alone without any confusion.
An old lady is apparently murdered by an overdose of ‘Black Drop’ and her beneficiary, a handsome young man, is thought to be the guilty party and so faces a terrible fate. Convinced that the explanation is more complex than this and inclined to believe in the man’s innocence, Miss Kent decides to find the real culprit. By means of opening the novel with a letter, the author introduces the characters and central premise of the novel skilfully. The central character is believable, likeable and convincing while the historical details are beautifully rendered, subtle and unobtrusive yet adding an unmistakable sense of period and place.
In some ways it is reminiscent of Cranford with its small town full of women with little to do except gossip and keep an eye on each other. There are sly subtle comments about the status of women at this time, particularly commenting on the difficult and often unpleasant situation of spinsters and governesses, those without money or a chance of marriage. The plot is full of twists and turns with mysterious visitors, disguises and lots of secrets discovered by Miss Kent. There is never a dull moment and I didn’t want it to end. Overall, a wonderful book which I recommend very highly. I will definitely be getting the first in the series and looking forward with great anticipation to the third.