A debut novel featuring the brooding recluse Lord Ambrose of Malfine and his faithful manservant Belos. When a nearby farmer and his son are shot dead and a gypsy is accused of their murder, Ambrose intervenes to ensure justice is done. Set in the West Country of 1830.
I love historical mysteries and I’m constantly on the lookout for new authors to read. Last year this series by Jane Jakeman was brought to my attention and I’m really happy that I decided to read it.
Written in the first person this is the story of Lord Malfine, a man who has fought in the wars of the Greek independence against the Turks only to return home full of scars and any lack of desire of socializing with his neighbors. He is the son of an English gentleman and a Greek lady who died when his sister was born.
He stays closed up in his home till he finds a group of men, some of his tenants, planning to kill a gypsy believing him guilty of the murder of two farmers. Decided to give the man a fair trial he starts he own investigation about what really happened at the farm questioning all people involved including the farm’s mistress and her son’s governess. It seems there were hidden depths to most of the people involved and the author manages to throw us on quite a few twists and turns with decidedly unexpected information. Some of its resolution is provided by facts unknown to the reader as not all that Lord Ambrose discovers is made available to us.
It makes for quite a mysterious and atmospheric read, a gothic hero with a crumbling house and two mysterious women as suspects, one of them addicted to laudanum and the other that strangely appeals to him.
I did like the author’s voice and I am quite curious about the next books in the series but I wish we had been given more information about some of the characters. The author provides a lot of historical detail like the treatment of gypsies, the fight of the workers against the machines that replace them in the factories, the disinterest shown by the upper classes in the justice system they are supposed to uphold. Nothing that overwhelms the story, just little tidbits of information that enrich it.