Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The world of Jane Eyre in a detective setting: "The Opium Purge" by Elizabeth Bailey

One morning Lady Ottilia Fanshawe and her husband Lord Francis wake up to a winter wonderland. The garden of his mother's dowerhouse is covered with a thick layer of snow and in the snow an angelic woman is dancing. She seems to be wearing a sparkling dress and a red cape flies around her thus creating the vision of a fairytale princess. When Lady Francis runs downstairs to see who it is she discovered the child inside the house after having broken into it. The young woman is very beautiful but seems a bit strange and childlike.

Not long after that,  the first dead person shows up and Lady Fan, as Ottilia is called by many, helps her husband and her brother with finding the cause of death. When that is clear she uses all her detective skills to find the killer.

The book is situated in the countryside in mostly either the Dower House of the estate of an earl, her brother-in-law, or a three story country house that is the direct neighbour. The era is the end of the 18th century but the only clue to that is a hint to the violence of the French Revolution.

Due to the links to Barbados and mad women in the attic it had a strong Jane Eyre-influence.

The use of laudanum and the effect of opium are a key element in the story. Slavery is discussed as well.

Although several deaths occur none is described in a very violent manner and there are no bedscenes to worry the prudish readers. It is a classic style detective novel.

What I noticed was the higher level of English used in the book. A lot or contemporary, now a bit archaic, words but also just words I had to look up in my Kindle Dictionary. My excuse is that English is not my native language but I can imagine some American readers complaining. I did find it making the story more believable and thought provoking.

I was very impressed and as this was book 3 I think in a series and I had not read the other ones I ordered the first one in the series immediately after. Ok I will know she will marry the lord but the who-done-it in the earlier novels is not spoiled by flashbacks in this one.

GREAT READ: 5 STARS

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