A Place of Confinement

Written by Anna Dean
Review by Rachel A Hyde

There is a man interested in marrying impoverished spinster Dido Kent; unfortunately, he is the pompous clergyman Dr Proudlee. He has already worn out one wife and fills up half the church with his huge brood, and Dido already has a man in mind. Saying no has the effect of getting Dido sent off as companion to the rich and hard to please hypochondriac Aunt Manners. The pair is staying at Charcombe Manor in Devon where Aunt Manners spent her childhood, and instantly it is obvious there is something strange going on. Wealthy young heiress Letitia Verney has vanished, possibly to Gretna Green or maybe somewhere more sinister and permanent. Even worse, Tom Lomax, the son of Dido’s own would-be suitor, is held to be guilty…

This is the fourth in this entertaining series set in 1805, and I hope there will be many more. Written partly in letters penned by Dido and partly from her point of view, this is historical mystery at its most effective. The author manages to create a period ambience from her sound knowledge of the era, making the right sort of underpinning for the adventures and romance. In keeping with the sort of gothic tales so beloved of the times, there is an involved plot containing ghosts, a secret room, people vanishing, mysterious visitors and the inevitable old sins that continue to cast long shadows. The romance is there, but nicely incidental and underplayed in what never stops being a mystery novel. I read quite a number of novels set in this period, and I continue to be impressed by this author’s ability to nicely sidestep the usual pitfalls many historical novelists tumble into. If you are looking for a quality historical crime series to get stuck into, then you have just found it.