Acts of Faith: A Blue Satan Mystery
The Jacobite Rebellion and its aftermath wreaked havoc on many Roman Catholic families in 1716 England, which is carefully and cleverly depicted in Patricia Wynn’s fifth novel in the Blue Satan Mystery Series. Hester Kean has been sent by her cousin Isabella, Countess of Hawkhurst, to Yorkshire to prepare Isabella’s sister, Mary, for a life at court. Hester travels with several men of different faiths, and the tension is palpable, with most of the animosity aimed toward a reticent gentleman, Charles Fenwick. This foreshadows much trouble ahead for Charles and stirs up Hester’s protective nature.
The remainder of the story fluctuates between the characters’ inquiries about the death of Charles’s father, who was found shot in the woods near his home, and the persistent hunting down of Roman Catholics by the local authorities. Meanwhile an old flame of Hester, Gideon, Viscount St. Mars (aka Blue Satan), arrives in Yorkshire. Apparently he is in hiding for something illegal, but that doesn’t stop him pursuing Hester and joining her to discover who murdered the elder Mr. Fenwick.
Two aspects of this novel keep it fascinating. One is the obsession with money and architectural and interior design advertising one’s wealth or lack thereof, and the second concerns the harsh laws regarding taxes and possession of land plaguing the defeated Roman Catholics who remain in England despite its unwelcome attitude. Hester and St. Mars provide the novel’s passion, which is more awaited than actually carried out. All in all, Acts of Faith is an accurate, well-researched, and engaging mystery, romance, and work of 18th-century historical fiction.