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Publisher: William Heineman (Random House)
Release Date: 4 December 2003
ISBN: 0727860089
Format Reviewed: Trade Paperback
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Genre: Historical Crime [1297 Edinburgh & Perth, Scotland]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Fire in the Flint
By Candace Robb

      Candace Robb’s enjoyable Owen Archer mysteries are well loved by fans of historical crime fiction, and following on from A Trust Betrayed, here is the second of her new series about the feisty Margaret Kerr. Waiting for the return of her wayward and long- missing husband Roger, she has been living with her tavern keeper, Uncle Murdoch. Suddenly Roger is back in the picture and wants his wife to resume being his loving and obedient spouse. He is a staunch adherent of Robert the Bruce; but she supports John Balliol, and now Margaret suspects that it is some mission for his King rather than love that has brought Roger back to her. After a murder occurs at the inn, the pair escape the English-ridden streets of Edinburgh for their true home in Perth. But why have their belongings been searched, and what is the connection between the deaths?

      The history that forms the foreground, as well as background for this story is a lily that needs little gilding, being at once exciting and not often written about. There is the frightening figure of “Longshanks,” Edward I, the two warring contenders for the Scottish throne, and William Wallace to cram into the pages. I much enjoyed the Owen Archer novels, but do agree that at times they could be over-cozy and domestic, whereas here Ms Robb has gone all-out to be anything but. The tough-but-hapless Margaret has a rascally husband and father, as well as the visionary and selfish Christiana as her mother to contend with. The family’s dysfunctional relationships plus the turbulent times form 90% of the book, but are not enough to make this a diverting read. There is a plot in here somewhere, but it is not strong enough to be either memorable or conspicuous. This was also a feature of the first book in the series (A Trust Betrayed) and this seems to me—a fan of her earlier books—to be a pity. All this thrilling history and strong characters need the sort of page-turning plots that made her Owen Archer books so admired. Add this to the mix and there ought to be more to admire than even in her earlier work.