Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Marked Man

A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton
Berkley Prime Crime, 2010
322 pages
Historical Mystery
3.5/5 stars
Sequel to The Ninth Daughter

Source: Library

After being intrigued by the premise of Abigail Adams as a detective, I knew I'd want to read the second book, hoping for an even better story.  I was rewarded because I thought this story was much tighter but with just as much historical detail and insight.

Mystery first.  Sir Jonathan Cottrell, Loyalist and would-be fiance to wealthy merchant's daughter Lucy is found murdered.  The arrested suspect is Henry Knox, Patriot and another would-be fiance to Lucy except that he actually loves her while Cottrell loves her money.  Of course Abigail knows Knox didn't do it because he was busy printing for the Sons of Liberty but she embarks on a quest to find legitimate outside proof that someone else committed the crime.  As Abigail investigates, she discovers many who want Cottrell dead but many red herrings and dead ends that slow her discovery of the true mastermind behind his death.

The role of women is again examined.  The ability of (wealthy, white) men to act largely without impunity is stressed as Cottrell was a notorious scoundrel who disgraced many a young woman, those with money and those without.  Bathsheba was a slave harassed by him who mysteriously disappeared around the time of his death, leaving behind two very young children.  Abigail believes it must has been forcible because a mother wouldn't leave her kids like that but not everyone agrees.  Lucy is in a difficult position as an heiress Patriot to an imperious Loyalist father who would do almost anything to prevent her from marrying someone he doesn't like.  Abigail also has her own struggles with guilt and her Puritan upbringing.  She knows that she should be at home, caring for her home and children but with the able assistance of Pattie, she frequently leaves the hated household chores in order to sleuth.  There are more instances, but these are a representative few that hopefully show why I liked this book.

The historical picture painted is also fantastic with a bit more John Adams than the first book as well as lots of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams in addition to fictional constructs who portray the varying opinions in the Boston of 1774.

My biggest problem, as with the first book, was the writing style, which I'm still having trouble with.  It seems very old-fashioned, which is good for a historical fiction novel, but I struggled with getting attached and fully immersed. I'm aware that this complaint is very much about me and my taste and I did find this easier going than the first book so I have hope for the third book being even better!

Unlike the first book, this one has a historical note at the end describing the life of Henry and Lucy Knox (yes, they are able to get married).  Among other roles, Knox was the first Secretary of War for America and he and Lucy had a long and devoted marriage.

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