Death in the Age of Steam


This literary mystery, set in 1856 Ontario and Quebec, focuses on a banker’s quest to find his missing former love, the daughter of a prominent politician who died suddenly. Isaac Harris always regretted not declaring himself to Theresa Sheridan before she married businessman Henry Crane three years earlier. Now he sees a way to make things right when it appears her husband is willing to give her up for dead when she disappears before her father’s funeral. Certain she is in trouble, Isaac devotes himself to tracking her down.

This convincing portrait of life in pre-Confederation Canada holds many charms, from its snapshots of Victorian-era Toronto and various towns along the St. Lawrence River to its well-crafted mystery. Isaac is an appealing hero and detective, often falling into his discoveries, yet realistically portrayed. Theresa is a little more troubling and not entirely convincing, while the secondary characters range from stereotypical to bizarre.

Though the story moves along quite well, the pace lags at times as the author occasionally immerses the reader in too many details. Still, as mysteries go, this one held my interest and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about mid-19th century Kingston. It’s clear the author did his research, and those interested in this period of history should enjoy this fascinating combination of detective story and historical novel.



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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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