Lady Helena Investigates: Book One of the Scott-De Quincy Mysteries

Written by Jane Steen
Review by Anna Bennett

The sleepy town of Littleberry, Sussex at the end of the 19th century is as expected: suspicious of the mysterious and handsome French physician Armand Fortier, with lower classes struggling to move up through tenant farming and self-education, and brothers determined to manage their wealthy, widowed sisters’ estates. Working to keep such a brother at bay, Lady Helena is still reeling from the unexpected loss of her husband, Sir Justin, when she receives Dr. Fortier’s startling insistence that Sir Justin did not perish accidentally. Although she denies it initially, Lady Helena soon becomes embroiled in a tangled skein of mourning, motives, and misinformation.

In a seeming domino effect, mysteries come out of the woodwork under the gentle hands of Lady Helena as she attempts to find truth amidst a suicide, local gossip, the ravings of a fevered and fallen tenant, and her own family secrets. All the while, Steen artfully weaves in contemporary social and political issues, including the development and eventual passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, the infantilization of women in Victorian England, and the role of disabilities in their male counterparts. Lady Helena Investigates is a well-rounded story that readers from all backgrounds can appreciate.