Lord Francis Powerscourt Investigation,
March 15, 2011 / ISBN 9781569479124
Historical Mystery / England 1909/ Gaslight era
by LJ Roberts
It was very cold at nine o’clock on a breezy autumn morning
The Earl of
Candlesby is dead; an event more to cause celebration than mourning.
Yet no one is allowed to see his body and the local, very elderly
doctor is forced into signing a death certificate stating “natural
causes.” Lord Francis Powerscourt, one of the most respected
inquiry agents in Great Britain, and his wife Lady Lucy stop in
Lincolnshire on their way to one of her many relatives. There they
help out the local vicar and meet the doctor who later requests
Powerscourt’s help in relieving the doctor’s conscience
and finding out how the Earl really did die.
One of Dickinson’s
many strengths is establishing a sense of time and place. His descriptions
are so evocative, they are auditory, visual, and even one gets when
standing on the site where the past and the present converge. Weather
effectively becomes another character. His references to meals and
fine wines make it easy to envision not only the food but the settings
in which they are partaken. Dickinson is an author who also knows
how to use humor effectively such as when a vicar starts to introduce
the Powerscourts and inadvertently segues into the benediction.
powers extend to the characters as well, from the protagonists of
Lord and Lady Powerscourt and their friend Johnny Fitzpatrick who
fought alongside Powerscourt but is afraid of cars, to the minor
players, making each distinctive and memorable. There is a real
sense of empathy for and natural humanity given to the characters,
even those less meritorious. Nor does he overlook the importance
and contribution of the secondary characters to the story.
is one story thread some may feel could have been omitted, it provided
a strong sense of reality, historic perspective and relevance related
to the political and economic state as well as pressure for the
right to vote for all men, but without ever slowing the story down.
He incorporates historical figures while keeping them in their actual
roles, adding veracity to the story. A particularly enjoyable reference
is made by a young reporter about having had two of his short stories
published in “The Strand Magazine.” There is also, what
could be considered, a rather large coincidence at the beginning
of the book. It could, however, also be interpreted as a case of
Lest you think
these are light, non-action books; think again. The crimes are brutal,
the risk and suspense can be high and bodies do accumulate. The
plotting is exceptional, even to the final chapter. Death in
a Scarlet Coat was one excellent book.