Murder in Bloomsbury

Written by D. M. Quincy
Review by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Based on a notorious Scottish scandal, re-set in Regency London, this mystery has Atlas Catesby, gentleman and aficionado of custom-made puzzles, investigating the suspicious death of a handsome, social-climbing footman. Assisted by the lovely, clever and very rich Lady Roslyn, Catesby uncovers a web of illicit arsenic deals and amorous liaisons between the departed footman and repressed upper-class young ladies. (Arsenic, one learns here, was everywhere in the 1800s. It made lovely green dyes for everything from candles to curtains and was thought to improve female complexions and dramatically increase male potency.) Catesby’s investigation proceeds at the stately pace of at-homes, teas, and lush garden parties, and then gathers speed as he unpacks the mystery and, in the process, takes charge of his own destiny. While some elements of the backstory of Catesby and Lady Roslyn will be opaque to new readers, Murder in Bloomsbury, offers a richly worked vision of upper-class London in which even women of great wealth struggled against oppressive social restraints.