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Death in the Setting Sun
John Rawlings Mystery, No 10
Deryn Lake

Allison & Busby
2005 / ISBN 0749083654
Historical Mystery / England / Georgian

Reviewed 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 its strengths.

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 appreciated.

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 not.

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.

Reviewer's Note:
Reviewed 2011
© 2011