Beauty, Beast and Belladonna

Written by Maia Chance
Review by Clarissa Harwood

Before variety hall actress Ophelia Flax has the chance to break off her hasty engagement to the hirsute Comte de Griffe, one of the guests at his winter hunting party is found murdered. The superstitious villagers impute the murder to the Beast of local legend, and Ophelia must determine whether her fiancé or one of his guests is the murderer.

Chance’s sparkling, witty prose hooked me from the start, and I enjoyed her twist on the familiar fairy tale. Some sentences made me laugh out loud: “She wasn’t really a tippling lady, but the image of a half dozen hairy baby Griffes crawling around in diapers required blurring.” Minor characters are equally entertaining, such as a precocious thirteen-year-old boy who speaks like a professor.

This cozy Victorian mystery is the third in a series. I haven’t read the first two books but had no trouble following the story. My only quibble is that Ophelia and her love interest have progressed too far with their feelings to be kept apart in contrived ways, and I hope Chance remedies this in the next book. Recommended.