Monday, December 24, 2007

A Flaw in the Blood-Stephanie Barron

A Flaw in the Blood
Stephanie Barron
Bantam, Mar 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9780553805246

In 1861 Windsor Castle, the Prince Consort Albert is dying from typhoid, a disease he has battled with for several months. His wife Queen Victoria of England is beside herself with grief as she wonders how she will survive and continue to rule her empire without him at her side; he has always been there for her and their children since they married two decades ago.

Victoria sends her royal coach for Irish barrister Patrick Fitzgerald to see her as she has need of his service. Twenty years ago when she was a shaky ruler of just a few years, he, as a legal clerk, exposed a murderous conspiracy intended to dethrone her. Fitzgerald accompanied by his ward Dr. Georgiana Armistead has no idea what her Highness wants of him, but when the coach containing them is attacked, he fears for their lives as he knows the assault was precisely planned by a royal insider. He refuses to risk their lives so he plans to hide the niece of the late Dr. Snow, physician to the Queen. However they are the prey of predators seeking a secret that goes back to his first royal encounter although he remains ignorant of that truth; if revealed those who want the queen deposed will have a perfect rationale at a time the grief stricken Victoria is too weak to fight back.

In many ways this exhilarating thriller is more a historical novel than a mystery. The audience obtains a taste of greater London at a critical time in the reign of Queen Victoria when the monarch is vulnerable. Fitzgerald keeps the tale focused with his realistic attempts to hide rather than die facing his unknown adversaries. Readers will appreciate Stephanie Barron’s fine mid nineteenth century Victorian suspense saga with nary an Austen or any Jane in sight.

Harriet Klausner