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A Killing Frost
Blue Satan Mystery sseries, No 4
Patricia Wynn

Pemberley Press
July 1, 2011/ ISBN 9781935421016
Historical Mystery / London, England-1716

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: On the bank of the Rover Thames, just south of the tiny village of Lambeth between the Archbishop’s Palace and the Manor of Vauxhall, stood a modest property, the secret residence of Gideon Fitzsimmmons, the outlawed Viscount St. Mars.

It is 1716 and Sir Walter Tatham has been found dead. Even more remarkable is that his body has been dressed in coronation robes and is leaning frozen against a booth at the Frost Fair on the frozen River Thames. Lord Hawkhurst, employer to Hester Kean, asks her to see what she can find out about Tatham’s affairs but she can’t do it alone. However, her friend Viscount St. Mars, outlawed and with a price on his head, is busy trying to help a Jacobite prisoner escape from Newgate, prove his own innocence and regain his title. The two join forces to help one another while outside influences threaten their potential relationship.

It’s the details that count. Historical notes and the background information they provide add so much to both the education of the reader and the enjoyment of the reading. Ms. Wynn provides a history of the Jacobites, not only as it relates to the Scots, but to many of the English as well. Even within the story, she provides excellent descriptions of everything from details of the staffs’ duties, to the portrayal of London and the Thames frozen after 50 days of cold for the first time in 30 years, down to something as small as Hester attaching pattens to her shoes. Now if only publisher would have included a map of 1716 London…but that’s not the author’s fault. At least there are wonderful illustrations on the book’s end papers and versus from “The Art of Walking the Streets of London” by John Gay (1716) at each chapter beginning.

Ms. Wynn’s characters, both likeable and not, are fully developed. Hester Kean is the daughter of a clergyman now employed as the companion of her cousin, Isabella. Isabella is shallow and self-involved, but not cruel. Her mother, Mrs. Mayfield, realizes it is only her daughter’s marriage to Harrowby Fitzsimmons that allows her family to live comfortably. Harrowby, weak and easily influenced, gained his wealth and title as Viscount St. Mars due to his cousin, Gideon Fitzsimmons being declared an outlaw, but could lose it all should Gideon prove his innocence. The circle is complete due to the friendship between Gideon and Hester, who believes in his innocence. Ms. Wynn ensures readers new to the series are brought up to speed through a very good summary of previous events.

The dialogue, particularly between Gideon and Hester, is excellent. It has a natural flow and contributes to a sense of the time and manners of the period. The relationship between the two characters may feel frustratingly slow, but is, again, reflective of the time and situations in which the characters find themselves. The quandary in which Heather finds herself and the weight of that decision is very well demonstrated. It suits her character to weight the decision rather than address it emotionally.

The book is so well plotted with a delicious twist early in the story. Wynn builds tension and suspense palpably, taking her characters to the precipice only to turn them away at the last moment leaving the characters disappointed and the readers thrilled. At least she takes pity and prevents a fall from one metaphorical ledge at the end.

A Killing Frost is not a light, romantic book with the sheen of historical mystery. It is a fascinating historical mystery with an element of romance. It is also one engrossing read.


Reviews: The Spider's Touch (1) The Spider'sTouch (2) The Birth of Blue Satan (1) The Birth of Blue Satan (2)
Reviewed 2011
© 2011