John Rawlings Mystery, No 10
Allison & Busby
2005 / ISBN 0749083654
Historical Mystery / England / Georgian
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: Like many seasons that are destined to be severe,
the winter of 1764 started moderately enough with mild evenings,
crisp leaf falls, and a lot of fine clear sunshine in the daytime.
Apothecary John Rawlings is father to a very intelligent daughter,
Rose, married to Emilia and expecting their second child. Emilia
is surprised to be invited to Gunnersbury House and to take part
in a Christmas Mask for Princess Amelia. When, after the play, John
looks for Emilia, he finds her bleeding to death in the snow wearing
the red cloak of another woman who claims she was the intended victim.
But it is John who is accused of murder, set to be arrested and
encouraged to escape in order to find the true killer.
Unfortunately, this was one of my least favorite books in what
has otherwise been a very good series. However, it is not without
Lake creates a very good sense of place and time through her detailed
descriptions, manners, dress and the syntax of the characters’
speech. She also conveys a wonderful sense of impending doom without
using foreshadowing, as is so common. That is something I very much
There was a redundancy in describing Rose, but I can forgive that.
What I’ve always had a problem with is a fault in John’s
character. On one hand, John is smart, generous and I appreciate
the gratitude and affection has for his father. However, it is his
apparent fickleness toward women that has made him a difficult character
toward I can feel empathy. That is a problem. Not liking the protagonist
can definitely shade my feeling toward the story. Beyond that, I
had a greater complaint.
The greatest fault I had with the book was that the story’s
plot lacked depth. There was one very large coincidence and, to
me, the killer was obvious from the start, even if the motive was
Every author should be allowed an off book. Due to the strength
of her previous books, I am not giving up on Ms. Lake. Instead,
my fingers are crossed that the next book in this series will return
to the series I so enjoy.