A Lord Ambrose mystery, No. 3
by Jane Jakeman
It is May 1833 in West Country, England Lord Ambrose Malfine has proposed to Elizabeth
Anstruther, but she rejects his proposal, citing the differences in social levels and
their differences in personalities. She takes a position as companion to Lady Clara Jermand
in the secluded West Country village of Combard. The house is run-down and the household
is unsettled. Lady Jesmond's elderly husband, Sir Anthony, is secluded behind locked
doors with his assisstant Charnock, conducting secret experiments.
Soon after Elizabeth's arrival Sir Anthony's resident doctor, John Kelsoe, is poisoned.
Elizabeth seeks Malfine's help when a second death, that of Sir Anthony's son, Cyriack,
follows the funeral of the doctor. He, too, has been poisoned. Elizabeth refuses to leave
Lady Clara, so Malfine puts his friend Doctor Murdock Sandys in residence while he journeys
to Oxford, seeking information. He consults with his former Oxford professor, Dr William
Triddle, to learn details about the poisons. Dr. Twiddle and Professor Danberry refer
him to former Oxford professor Dr Henderson, believed to be dabbling in alchemy. Henderson
vanished, only to turn up involved with Sir Anthony. The information Malfine is able to
obtain together with gossip from his companion from the theatrical world, Belos, helps
to unravel the mystery,
There is a brooding, foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of the works of Bronte and Austen.
The characters are interesting people, including the sensitive hero, Ambrose Malfine;
the independent heroine Elizabeth; the mysterious housekeeper, Mrs Romey; Malfine's companion
Belos; and the erudite Oxford Dons. Conversation between the dons and Lord Ambrose adds
insight into the nature of scientific thought and inquiry in the early 19th century.
There is much discussion of the role of alchemy in history. Through Belos we are given
glimpses of the theatrical scene of the times. Brief references to Ambrose's past pique
the reader's curiosity. If the reader hasn't read the previous books in the series, he will
surely be tempted to do so. I did. I find this to be one of the most enjoyable books I
have read this year.
Berkley Prime Crime|
Historical mystery [England 1833]|