Time to get our murdering on again and for the second month on the trot I’ve got a historical cosy mystery for you – and what’s more, three of the words of the title are exactly the same. The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders is the first of a new series featuring spritely, middle-aged widow Laetitia Rodd. I will admit that this first offering saw we shelf-denizens taking quite a shine to Mrs Rodd and we thoroughly enjoyed this first adventure (a digital copy of which we received from the publisher via Netgalley). Let’s crack on – here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Mrs Laetitia Rodd is the impoverished widow of an Archdeacon, living modestly in Hampstead with her landlady Mrs Bentley. She is also a private detective of the utmost discretion. In winter 1850, her brother Frederick, a criminal barrister, introduces her to Sir James Calderstone, a wealthy and powerful industrialist who asks Mrs Rodd to investigate the background of an ‘unsuitable’ woman his son intends to marry ? a match he is determined to prevent.
In the guise of governess, she travels to the family seat, Wishtide, deep in the frozen Lincolnshire countryside, where she soon discovers that the Calderstones have more to hide than most. As their secrets unfold, the case takes an unpleasant turn when a man is found dead outside a tavern. Mrs Rodd’s keen eyes and astute wits are taxed as never before in her search for the truth ? which carries her from elite drawing rooms to London’s notorious inns and its steaming laundry houses.
Dickensian in its scope and characters, The Secrets of Wishtide brings nineteenth century society vividly to life and illuminates the effect of Victorian morality on women’s lives. Introducing an irresistible new detective, the first book in the Laetitia Rodd Mystery series will enthral and delight.
Middle-aged widow Letty Rodd is called to the countryside to investigate the past of a woman who is the object of the affections of a rich young gentleman. Just when Mrs Rodd believes she has got at the truth, events take a gruesome turn and Mrs Rodd is suddenly plunged into the thick of a murder investigation, in which a young man’s life hangs in the balance. As the bodies mount up, Mrs Rodd knows that she is dealing with a ruthless killer, yet without the hard evidence required by the slightly irritating Constable Blackbeard, Laetitia is not certain that she can clear Charles Calderstone’s name and spare the family the horror of losing their son.
The Usual Suspects:
There are quite a slew of possible suspects here and they all seem to have shady connections to the deceased and each other. There is, of course, young Charles Calderstone, last seen arguing with his beloved before a brutal murder occurs, there’s the blackmailer and his or her potential lackeys, there’s Sir James Calderstone, who has his own reasons for not wanting his son to marry the object of his affections, and also a collection of persons unknown who may have an axe to grind against Sir James and his wife.
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
I have to say that the hunt for the murderer/s was expertly done, with fantastic pacing and the added excitement of extra, unexpected murders to spice things up (and shake up the list of suspects). Often I find that novels of this sort have problems with pacing in that too much is revealed too early, leaving the story to drag, or not enough is revealed early on, leaving the reader wishing the intended would hurry up and be killed. I had no troubles at all with this book however and was thoroughly engaged from start to end.
Four poison bottles for the sordid satisfaction of dirty linen aired in public
I found this to be an impressive series opener, and I am glad that it is the start of a series because Laetitia Rodd is a thoroughly likeable protagonist. The mystery elements were complicated enough to be interesting, without being so twisted as to be impossible to untangle. The characters all seemed to have colourful pasts, which makes guessing who the murderer/s might be jolly good fun.
There were a couple of idiosyncrasies to the writing that threw me a bit. Throughout the narration, Laetitia continually references investigations in which she has previously participated, and this had me a bit confused until I could reassure myself that this was in fact the first in the series and I hadn’t accidentally picked up the second or third by mistake. Also, I simply could not picture Mrs Rodd as the middle-aged woman that she is supposed to be. I’m not sure if it is the picture on the cover that led me astray or her buoyant, energetic manner, but my mind insisted on imagining Laetitia as an early-twenty-something. Regardless, I couldn’t help but fall into step beside her and attempt to assist in catching the murderer/s.
The only area in which this fell down a little was the fact that the ending was far more straightforward than I expected it to be, but for a first crack at a new character, it was more than enough to be going on with. I will be definitely keeping an eye out for Mrs Rodd’s further adventures.
Until next time,