Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Murder

Written by Karen Swee
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guilliams

In the New Jersey river port of New Brunswick, the town inhabitants had a front row seat of the war action in early 1777. General Washington had just made his daring moves at Trenton and Princeton, which re-ignited the heart of the American patriots for their revolution. The result for the townspeople was occupation by the British, requiring individual decisions on how to react. Some left, some stayed willingly, and some merely appeared willing to better work from behind the lines. The tavern mistress of New Brunswick, who is the heroine of this debut novel, has sterling qualities of character, which are called upon when a murder victim is found in her lodging rooms. Since she has a house full of British officers, a pretty young daughter, a local constable whose loyalties she is unsure of and an uncle whose patriotic leanings are dangerously apparent, she has her hands full, still finding time for a flirtation or two and keeping the tavern running, and passing information to the American cause given the opportunity. The details and manners are accurate, if producing a sigh over the relative civility of war in past times. Abigail deals with an attempted rape of her daughter by a British lieutenant in short order, and is backed up by British command. The war is mostly background which occasionally weaves into the direct story, just as current events do in our daily lives. Those of us who love this period of American history rejoice that an author chooses it for a good mystery.