Betrayal in Time: A Novel (Kendra Donovan Mysteries)

Written by Julie McElwain
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Kendra Donovan has traveled in time. A present-day FBI agent, Donovan slipped back to 1815 England in the first of author Julie McElwain’s historical mystery series, A Murder in Time. The most recent volume, Betrayal in Time, finds Donovan on the trail of a murderer who marks victims with symbols in invisible ink or knife cuts after garroting them. Working with the Duke of Aldridge, an amateur sleuth and scientist who has taken her in as his ward, and Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Donovan traces perfidy and deceit among former military men who fought in the Anglo-Spanish and Napoleonic Wars.

McElwain cleverly expresses Donovan’s modernity and forensic expertise without betraying the conceit of the series: Here is a character who is out of place in time, but still manages to get along in the 19th century, giving readers a blend of crime scene investigation and historical period color.

The mystery unfolds in classic fashion. Characters from previous Donovan adventures deepen. Viewing scientific tactics and social customs through Donovan’s eye sharpens contrasts between yesterday and today. It also presents a dilemma when she must dampen natural 21st-century inclinations to fit in. One hope for the next Donovan novels is more development of a theme that crops up from time to time: how much can you give up to adapt to existing mores before you lose yourself?