Murder at the Seven Dials by Cara Devlin

Murder at the Seven Dials (Bow Street Duchess Mystery #1)Barbara’s rating: 4.5 Stars
Series: Bow Street Duchess Mystery #1
Publication Date: 1/28/23
Period: Regency London
Number of Pages: 317

Excellent mystery! This new-to-me author has presented a baffling murder mystery that includes a determined duchess, a prejudiced Bow Street officer, and social stigma along with a tad of the paranormal. Way to go! I’m rarely a fan of anything paranormal in the books I read, but this was done so well I didn’t mind it at all – I even rooted for it to be used even more. For me, the story was a bit slow and dragged a tad, but as the introduction to a new series, it had to make all of the proper character introductions and set-ups, so I have to allow for that. Still, it did seem a fair amount longer than the 317 pages it was. Oh! And before I forget to mention it – you have the first (or most of the first) chapter of the next book at the end of this one.

Audrey Sinclair, Duchess of Fournier, and Philip Sinclair, Duke of Fournier are not a love match. It is, however, a match of affection, care, and respect between two long-time friends who each have deep, serious secrets to hide. Their marriage gives each of them a layer of protection from the ton who would be aghast if they learned them. They also agreed there would be total honesty within the marriage, yet to Audrey’s horror, it appears Philip hasn’t exactly been honest lately.

In the wee hours of the morning, Audrey and the household were awakened when a message from Bow Street arrived. Philip had been found, incoherent, at the scene of a grisly murder in a crumbling tenant dwelling in Seven Dials. Philip was covered in blood and the murder weapon was close to him. Audrey knew immediately that Philip hadn’t committed the murder, he couldn’t have, that was part of his secret, but she couldn’t tell his secret and she had no way to show his innocence.

Bow Street Principal Officer, Hugh Marsden, has a raging prejudice against aristocrats and it pleased him immensely when there was no doubt that a duke has committed a most heinous crime. Yes, this duke was going to be arrested, tried, and hanged if he had his way about it. Who could doubt he was guilty – he was covered in blood – his mistress’s blood – and the murder weapon was at his feet. Contrary to what that little duchess kept telling him, he knew the duke was guilty. He’d just send her back to her palatial home to embroider while he wrapped up the case.

However, that little duchess was a whole lot more than Hugh bargained for. She did not follow instructions well and proceeded to investigate the case for herself. She was tooling around asking questions of dangerous people in dangerous places. Everywhere he turned there she was. Now, it seemed he’d have to keep her safe and protect her from herself while finishing up the case. Humpf!

I enjoyed watching Hugh trying to thwart Audrey and keep her out of trouble, and I also enjoyed watching him slowly come to believe that she just might be right about the murder. Uh Oh!

I hope I have found a new favorite author and series, but I’m going to reserve judgment on that. You see, I have to have a bit of romance to go along with my mysteries and I’m just not sure how the author is going to manage to do that given the circumstances. I would NEVER be satisfied with an affair between Audrey and Hugh – even though she and the duke have already agreed that those kinds of things are acceptable to them. So, what does that leave? It leaves the duke dying to free up Audrey so she and Hugh can be together. I cannot imagine what acceptable (to me) way the author can manage to do that. You see, if she’d killed him off in this book I would have been okay with it – but once I’ve met him and mildly liked him (at least felt empathy for him), then killing him off just won’t work for me. It would be sort of like watching a movie where the dog dies. So, I’m reserving judgment on the new favorite author and series until I see where the romance is heading.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Avid reader/reviewer of historical romance and historical mysteries.

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