Starting a series with book three is always a dicey proposition. There might be too much back story for you to figure out what’s going on and why characters behave the way they do. Some authors have started to end their books with cliffhangers, making matters worse. The alternative is usually a pages-long information dump at the beginning of a novel that annoys the hell out of series fans and flusters newcomers. Fortunately, S.K. Rizzolo found a middle path. Whether you’ve been following the John Chase series or came to it new, Die I Will Not will catch you up without overwhelming you.
Even though Die I Will Not is a part of the John Chase series, Penelope Wolfe is the star of the novel. Penelope is the wife of a struggling, spendthrift artist. The Wolfe family are currently living in London while Jeremy Wolfe tries to raise interest in his portraiture while Penelope minds the family accounts. Her friend, barrister William Buckler, is trying to attract clients while nursing his unacknowledged love for Penelope. Meanwhile John Chase, a Bow Street Runner, is sticking his nose into cases no one wants him to investigate.
Die I Will Not opens with a woman visiting a newspaper editor in his office and stabbing him, mortally wounding him. The editor was engaged in a battle of words with someone writing under the name “Collatinus.” Collatinus was the name Penelope’s father used twenty years before to write radical, anti-monarchist, anti-aristocrat letters exposing the follies of the rich and connected. Penelope fears for her family’s reputation once this piece of news gets out. The pre-Internet flame war between the editor Dryden Leach and Collatinus threatens to expose even more heinous family secrets.
Penelope, Chase, and Buckler all work to find out what’s going on, who murdered who, who the new Collatinus is, and how everything can be kept out of the unregulated newspapers of 1813. Along the way, Rizzolo gives us bourgeoisie parties, street urchins, old conspiracies, illegitimate children, and more. The court scenes in Die I Will Not particularly shine. The trio of protagonists are well drawn, round characters.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m reading book three of the series, but I didn’t get a strong sense of the setting of this novel. In mystery series, I’ve noticed that most of the scene setting happens in the first novels. A lot of the descriptions of places are cursory. Die I Will Not could have been set just about anywhere in the Regency era (1811-1820) or anywhere between 1800 and 1840 if a few names had been changed. Still, the plot and the murder mystery elements of this book are very good.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 4 November 2014.