DEATH AND THE COURTESAN – Pamela Christie
An Arabella Beaumont Mystery
England During the Regency
Arabella Beaumont, famed London courtesan, is planning a trip to Bath, and her latest lover, the Duke of Glen deen , has just returned with some disturbing news. A warrant is out for Arabella's arrest for the murder of another woman of the night, Euphemia Ramsey. It seems a paper knife with Arabella's initials was the murder weapon—a knife that disappeared from her house after a recent party. The duke has another slight problem to reveal. Despite the fact that he was with Arabella the previous three nights, his new fiancée was under the impression that he gave Arabella up six months before. So he can't vouch for his mistress. He does, however write a letter to the home secretary asking that her custody be given to him, and that he'll promise she'll stay in the city during the investigation. But it doesn't look good, especially when the Bow Street Runners show up and announce that they will be shadowing her wherever she goes.
While Arabella is indeed distressed by all of this news, she is not going to hang without a fight. And since no one can or will help her, it's up to Arabella to prove her innocence. She begins to gather data and witnesses, and soon it's apparent that there are those out in Society who can't wait for her downfall. This is going to be an uphill battle. Even Arabella knows that the evidence is damning. Using all of her numerous charms and her intelligence, and enlisting the help of her sister, her servants, Reverend John Kendrick (a family friend and admirer), and even the two Bow Street Runners who tail her, Arabella begins her investigation. Just who dislikes her so much that they'd like to see her hang?
So begins this delightfully written debut mystery! The premise is pure genius, filled with humor and clever dialogue. Arabella is a witty, engaging heroine who seems to be enjoying the entire search for the killer. Each chapter begins with a short, glib synopsis of what will happen in the next few pages. Sometimes unexpected things happen, such as when her brother's two illegitimate children visit and cause some consternation with their behavior (not to mention their names—Neddy and Eddie). There's the duke's mother, Lady Ribbonhat, and the duke's fiancée, Miss van Diggle, who may or may not be involved in the cover-up. The dialogue can be risqué at times with double entendres that will have readers laughing out loud. But the story is all Arabella, and she's a hoot!
I thoroughly enjoyed this vastly entertaining tale, and think that readers will love DEATH AND THE COURTESAN. I'm very much looking forward to the next installment of Arabella's mysteries in 2014.