The Lethal Legend

Written by Kathy Lynn Emerson
Review by Ellen Keith

Fourth and quite sadly last in the Diana Spaulding series, this adventure finds Diana and her fiancé, Dr. Ben Northcote, preparing for their wedding, soothing their contentious families, and solving a mysterious case of poisoning on Keep Island, home of Ben’s childhood friend, Graham Somener. Graham has allowed a female archaeologist (a rarity in 1880s Maine) to dig for a fabled missing treasure on the island, and when three of her assistants are poisoned, Graham turns to Ben to determine the cause. Naturally, Diana, with her reporter’s instinct as well as her concern for her fiancé’s whereabouts, is not far behind.

I’ve been a fan of this series but found myself disappointed in this final outing. In prior books, characters and their relationships were more fully fleshed out, but here the friendship between Ben and Graham doesn’t ring true. Compounding this is the initial presentation of Serena Dunbar, the archaeologist, as unlikeable, so I failed to become invested in her redemption and relationship with Graham. The skirmishes between the strong-willed mothers of the bride and groom were highly entertaining, though, and Emerson does make a case for Serena’s behavior as the result of prejudice and suspicion against a female scholar. Both Ben and Diana fall into the trap of underestimating her because of her sex. Emerson also plants the seeds in this book for her next series, and I’m not so disappointed in this book that I won’t follow her there.