Friday, July 15, 2011

Review of Accomplished in Murder - Historical Mystery Novella by Dara England

Accomplished in Murder is a charming and well-written historical mystery set in Victorian England. It begins with the recently wed Celeste writing to her friend Druscilla Winterbourne to say that only if Druscilla joins her in Cornwall will Celeste feel safe. However, when Druscilla arrives, her dear friend has died under mysterious circumstances. Druscilla is determined, of course, to unravel the mystery.

I was very taken with Ms. England's writing. It had the right period feel without frills and flourishes so many authors use to try to achieve that.

The author also does very well with giving a period feel without extensive descriptions. You never have that uncomfortable feeling of having to hew your way through the period descriptions with a scythe. Instead, it is well combined with the action and dialogue. Clearly, you are in Victorian England but the author doesn't try to smother the landscape with her research, which I have no doubt at all that she did. I am as picky as you can get on historical accuracy, and this novel passes the historical accuracy test.

The mystery itself is exactly what one would want in a cozy mystery, although I must admit that is not one of my favorite sub-genres. However, for anyone who enjoys the sub-genre, this supplies the mysterious death of a friend, the oddly-behaving characters, and determined non-detective requisite for a cozy. However, that doesn't mean that her plotting is predictable. She had several plot twists I didn't see coming. As a short mystery, it is very satisfying.

However, I must admit there was one important area I did not think was as well done. I am afraid that the characterizations, even of Druscilla, the main character, seemed thin. I admit that in a novella, which this is, might give less scope for extensive characterization, but since it is only 17,000 words, the author could have included substantially more characterization without exceeding novella length. There are a number of other characters who would have been very enjoyable to see more extensively developed. Don't get me wrong. The characters were diverse and interesting, but I never felt I got to know them with any depth.

Now some people don't mind slight character development in cozy mysteries. Christie's strength, for example, was never her character development, so this may or may not be a problem for many of Ms. England's readers. However, for me, it is a pretty large fault. I still enjoyed this novella and would recommend it for a short, light summer read, but not as enthusiastically as I would otherwise.

For me, on the Librarything scale, this is Four stars.

You can buy Accomplished in Murder on Amazon.

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