The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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October 15, 2016

The Secrets of Wishtide

      'Drat,' Mrs. Bentley dropped the potato she was carving (she was infinitely patient about cutting out the black parts). 'You're not expecting anyone today, are you, ma'am?' She got up and went to peer out of the window. 'It's Watson -- from Mr. Tyson's office!' Her pale eyes were suddenly as bright and alert as a squirrel's. 'Shall I ask him to come straight down?'
      'Yes, do.' I carried on rolling out the suet pastry, very glad not to be interrupted by a formal call, which would have meant handwashing and hairbrushing and the removal of my coarse apron. Despite my 'reduced' circumstances (that term always puts me in mind of sauces), the vicar's wide felt obliged to visit me, and I sat on several charitable committees with various local ladies. They all knew how reduced I was, but would have been horribly shocked to catch me in the act of cooking.

As you might know, I'm addicted to series mysteries, and the hint of a new one in the air always makes me happy.  I've been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it, and although it perhaps wasn't quite as wonderful as the build-up I gave it to myself, I definitely liked it, and its Victorian heroine, and am looking forward to her future adventures.

One of the things that the author did really well, I thought, was to quickly and easily weave in Laetitia Rodd's back story, and to sketch out her characters in a skillful way, so that it doesn't seem like this was the first time we had encountered them. Mrs. Rodd is a distressed gentlewoman in her fifties, still mourning after the death of her husband, a lovable archdeacon, and living in shabby comfort in London with her landlady and friend, Mrs. Bentley. She earns the funds to keep them both by assisting her brother Fred, a highly-regarded barrister, with some of his clients, and in this one, he sends her to Wishtide, the country home of Sir James Calderstone and his family.  At first, she pretends to be a new governess for the Calderstone daughters so that she can investigate the beautiful but unsuitable woman that their older brother insists on marrying. But then there's a murder or two or three, and it becomes her mission to convince Inspector Blackbeard of Scotland Yard to look elsewhere and save young Charles Calderstone from the gallows.

There was a thunk of a clue halfway through, but at least the intelligent and feisty Mrs. Rodd realized it herself a few pages later {there's nothing worse in a mystery than when you guess the ending much too soon...}, and I'm not sure the very last few pages worked, but these are very minor quibbles.  In the end, this was perfect, untaxing comfort reading, just what I needed, even though I'm always a little bemused that a cozy murder mystery would qualify as such. :)

The Secrets of Wishtide, by Kate Saunders
Bloomsbury Publishing 2016
Borrowed from the library


JoAnn said...

Sounds like an enjoyable read anyway, and I'm glad it was just what you needed!

I was at The Met a couple of days ago and was inspired by one of your earlier posts to look for their Childe Hassam paintings, which are in an area of the museum I'd not visited before. Beautiful! The big surprise was also stumbling upon The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton by Thomas Eakins, which I immediately recognized as the cover of Stoner by John Williams (a favorite). I had no idea it was a painting, nor that it was so large! Made my day :)

Audrey said...

Oh, I'm glad! I still need to get to Salem to see the Childe Hassam exhibit there. Maybe this week...

Anonymous said...

I'm not a great mystery reader but I've heard enough to be intrigued by this one. The combination of a Victorian setting and middle-aged heroine are pretty tempting. That said, I find Saunders to be a bit all over the place in her books so I doubt I'll rush out to find this one. For the "To Be Read Eventually, Possibly" list, I think.

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