Review: A Study in Murder (Book #1: A Victorian Book Club Mystery Series) by Callie Hutton

47882698. sy475 Bath, England, 1890. Mystery author Lady Amy Lovell receives an anonymous letter containing shocking news: her fiancé, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent, has been dabbling in something illegal, which causes her to promptly break their engagement. 

Two evenings later, as Lady Lovell awaits a visit from Lord William Wethington, fellow member of the Bath Mystery Book Club, her former fiancé makes an unexpected and most unwelcome appearance at her house. She promptly sends him to the library to cool his heels but later discovers the room seemingly empty–until she stumbles upon a dead Mr. St. Vincent with a knife in his chest. 

Lord Wethington arrives to find Lady Amy screaming and sends for the police, but the Bobbies immediately assume that she is the killer. Desperate to clear her name, Lady Amy and Lord Wethington launch their own investigation–and stir up a hornet’s nest of suspects, from the gardener who served time in prison for murder to a vengeful woman who was spurned by St. Vincent before he proposed to Lady Amy. 

Can they close the book on the case before the real killer gets away with murder?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books          Rating: 4½/5 stars

As member of the peerage, Lady Amy Lovell is privileged, but because of her gender, those privileges only go so far.  With a mind as quick and as strong as any man’s, Lady Amy often chaffs at the restrictions placed on her.  One of the ways in which she fights against those restrictions is via her secret identity as a mystery/crime author. She is one of the most popular among English authors and one of her greatest delights is hearing others talk about the quality of her books! 

Writing about murder, mayhem, and crime is one thing, being accused of such things is quite another.  Unfortunately, being accused is exactly where Lady Amy finds herself when her ex-fiancé is found dead in her home just days after she has broken their engagement.  With her research and experience writing about murder, Lady Amy knows the ways and methods of the police and she fully appreciates they aren’t going to make much effort to look beyond her as a suspect.  With nothing left to do but trust a friend and ask for help, Lady Amy reveals her secret to Lord Wethington and launches her own investigation into the death of her ex-fiancé.

Though Lord Wethington doesn’t initially believe Lady Amy and her claims of being one of the foremost authors of the day, he quickly realizes not only is she telling the truth, but she is also bound and determined to prove her innocence. If he has any hope of keeping her out of more trouble, Lord Wethington has no choice but to help his friend.  With lists of possible suspects and a large number of unanswered and quite troubling questions, the two begin asking questions and looking under rocks someone certainly doesn’t want overturned and examined.

As their investigation intensifies, Lady Amy and Lord Wethington find themselves mired in intrigue and danger.  Between the illegal drugs, the sketchy (and unknown to Amy) background of her ex-fiancé and an unexpectedly pregnant member of the lower peerage, there are plenty of suspects and not nearly enough answers.  What’s more, the police are none to pleased with Lady Amy’s involvement in their “investigation” and want nothing more than to see her behind bars or swinging from a rope.  It isn’t until the eleventh hour that the police begin to believe Amy and her evidence, but it may very well be too little, too late.

The Bottom Line: I am always going to be a fan of a strong female lead, especially one who is living well ahead of her time and place and Lady Amy Lovell certainly fits the bill.  Lady Amy is smart, feisty, determined, and driven and those are all qualities I like in my characters.  While trying to clear her name, Lady Amy also discovers she has a lot still to learn and she can learn some of it from her friend, Lord Wethington.  What’s more, over the course of their shared investigation, Lady Amy begins to see her friend in a whole new light and that certainly paves the way for a whole host of possibilities.  While Lady Amy is already a strong character, there is always room for evolution, and I am very much interested in what her evolution is going to look.  Certainly, the woman who is one of England’s most popular crime writers will have many, many adventures ahead of her.

Coming May 12, 2020: Goodreads| Amazon| B&N | Hardcover

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