Series: Crime & Passion #1
Publication Date: 2/23/21
Period: Victorian London – 1851
Number of Pages:238
This is my first read by Mary Lancaster other than her contribution to the anthology Storm & Shelter: A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends released earlier this year. Since I enjoyed that contribution so much, I wanted to read more of her work – and – then I found she had a historical mystery and I was sold. The mystery is really well done with lots of potential suspects, lots of red herrings, lots of dangerous pursuits, and an unexpected solution. While Historical Mystery is my favorite genre, they must include a romance to keep me fully happy. This book met that requirement with a most unusual couple.
Lady Grizelda (Griz) Niven, daughter of a powerful duke, and sister to a powerful leader in a ‘secret’ branch of the Home Office, is viewed as eccentric by friends and family alike. Today, she would be the norm, but in Victorian times, she was definitely an aberration. She saw nothing special about power and privilege and treated everyone equally. Oh, she followed the appropriate protocols whenever she was in the company of aristocrats, but she treated everyone with the same courtesy and regard. Griz views herself as the ‘forgotten’ family member, the one who fades into the background and isn’t noticed. I’m not sure that was true, but her mother certainly seemed to take her for granted.
Dragan Tisza is a poor, Hungarian refugee who fought on the losing side of the Hungarian revolution. Dragan was studying medicine and had no admiration at all for violence and the taking of lives. However, when the revolution came, he could only join his fellow citizens in fighting for freedom and equality. Dragan is intelligent, handsome, honorable, and trying his best to make it in the country that gave him refuge when he’d lost everything in his own country. When the police made the comment to him about being on the wrong side of the revolution, Dragan replied, “Oh, no, I was on the right side. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the losing side.”
Dragan and Griz first meet when they collide – literally – in a hallway at the opera. They meet again over the dead body of Griz’s maid. Each wonders if the other committed the crime – and each decides ‘probably not’. However, the police have no such qualms – they immediately arrest Dragan even though Griz was the one who originally had the knife in her hand. Dragan was an easy target because he was foreign and a revolutionary.
After a restless night at home, Griz has decided that there is no way Dragan had the time or opportunity to have committed the crime. In her inimitable way, she sets out to get Dragan released. You’ll love that scene in the story. Griz and Dragan begin to investigate together and soon run into some very unsavory characters, chases through the slums, and some very perplexing circumstances. The final scene where the villain is identified and Griz is saved in the nick of time is both exciting and entertaining. You’ll definitely enjoy ‘the ladies’ in that scene.
I really enjoyed the story, the mystery, and the characters and will definitely look forward to reading the next book in the series. All of that said, I have a hard time buying that Griz’s family is quite so lax as it is about her activities and close proximity to a most inappropriate man. When they fairly readily accept a permanent relationship between Griz and Dragen, my jaw dropped. As long as the mysteries are good, exciting, and engrossing, I can ignore the items I just mentioned. It will be interesting to see, in future books, how Griz adapts to being poor or how Dragen adapts to being beholden to Griz’s family for money. Both of those seem to be impossible situations given the personalities of the two characters, so the author’s resolution will need to be an innovative one.