Murder at the Merton Library (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery)
This is the seventh novel in the Lord Wrexford/Lady Charlotte Sloane Regency series, and it is a polished addition to these adventures. At the heart of this novel is another scientific conundrum on which Penrose bases her stories: the development of a propeller-based propulsion system for ocean-traveling ships, which was, in fact, burgeoning in various countries during the 1800-1838 period. The plot opens with the murder of an Oxford librarian, a former classmate of Wrex’s brother who was killed in battle. The story builds quickly as Wrex vows to find the villain and abruptly discovers the propulsion espionage behind the murder.
Penrose builds her much-complicated plot with a Dickensian cast of characters. Lord Wrexford and his wife Charlotte are at the center of the action. They are aided by loyal friends, a redoubtable aunt with a clever cane, interesting servants, a Russian diplomat, a sharp policeman, a mysterious German, several street urchins, a surgeon, and an ambitious midshipman. The villains are no less interesting: an inventor, a well-placed noblewoman, a financier, and a minister.
The plot moves quickly with unexpected complications that keep the reader intrigued. The dialogue is lively; the author has a discriminating sense of timing. The climax is worthy of the complications, and the ending is felicitous.