Five years after her archdeacon husband passed away, leaving her with a very small annuity, Laetitia Rodd makes ends meet (and staving off boredom) by investigating mysteries for her lawyer brother. It is a curious career for a widow, but Laetitia has a knack for getting people to reveal their secrets and for winkling out criminal motives. The Secrets of Wishtide, by Kate Saunders, introduces us to a new series featuring the irrepressible widow and detective.
Laetitia has been waiting for a new case for a while. Money is running short and she’s starting to get bored with her life as an ordinary widow. When her brother, a criminal barrister, summons her, Laetitia leaps at the chance. The central mystery begins with a scenario that only the Victorians could have concocted. The son of the rich family who lives at Wishtide has proposed to a woman who is “unsuitable.” No one knows who her people are. She’s poor. She teaches Italian to the family’s daughters. Clearly she’s hiding something at the parents want to know what it is.
Laetitia goes undercover to find out what Helen Orme’s secrets are and it doesn’t take her long to find out Helen’s background. That might have been it for the case if some shadowy figure hadn’t come along and murdered Helen, then pinned it on her would-be fiancé. Before long there are bodies left and right and it’s clear that Laetitia has stumbled onto a deep conspiracy.
I normally dislike amateur detectives who just stumble into things (especially when they star in books that have food puns in the title). But since reading Andrew Forrester’s The Female Detective, I’ve had a more open mind to amateur detectives who at least have a plausible reason for investigating crimes. (Besides, forensics and police procedures being what they were in 1850, the London police could use all the help they can get.) In addition, Laetitia has a gift for thinking beyond the obvious and witnesses can’t help but trust the worldly widow.
I very much enjoyed following Laetitia through her investigation. I couldn’t predict too far ahead and the ending was amazingly tense. I hope Laetitia’s next adventure is already in the works.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 13 September 2016.