Murders and Other Confusions
Susanna, Lady Appleton, is no ordinary crime-solver. She is a “learned” woman living in the 16th century, who is married to a man “so loyal and so bent on advancement” that he may betray her. Her expertise in herbs and the untimely death of her sister have led Susanna to write “A Cautionary Herbal.” As she unravels murders and intrigues, Susanna flies against the conventions of her time. At her side are the loyal Jennet, her very curious housekeeper, and Nick Baldwin, Lady Appleton’s friend, who, upon occasion are also called on to crack cases.
The eleven stories presented in this book—five of them previously unpublished—introduce a fascinating mixture of fictional and historical characters. As the author writes in the introduction her “plots are always based on facts.” Notes added at the end of each tale explain aspects of the society (from laws on marriage to Persian cats). Ms. Emerson is no romanticist: “I wouldn’t care to live in the sixteenth century,” she wisely says, adding “but it is a wonderful place to visit.” Her tales illustrate the reasons for her interest and for her opinion. She reminds us that, back in those days, people believed that portents announced coming disasters, that ‘base-got” babies died because they were “overlaid,” and that one could be “planetstruck.” There are twists, flashes of revelations, and some great titles. It’s a fun, easy read.