Friday, January 1, 2010

Bellfield Hall: Or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent

Bellfield Hall: Or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent
Anna Dean
Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312562946

In 1805, affluent Richard Montague and his fiancée Catherine Kent dance at their engagement party when an unknown man approaches them. .He says nothing but somehow Richard understands and provides him with a secret message before silently leaving. Immediately, Montague informs a stunned Catherine that their engagement is over and leaves.

Distraught Catherine turns to a spinster relative Dido Kent for help as her aunt has a reputation for solving mysteries. She wants to know why her ex fiancé ended their relationship abruptly when he seemed so happy, where is he, and if he is safe. At Bellfield Hall Miss Dido Kent begins making observations upon arrival, but even she is unprepared for the corpse of woman found in the nearby shrubs. As she digs into the death of the young female and into the Montague family history, she seeks answers to her niece’s questions.

Using intelligent amusing letters to her sister Eliza as a means to explaining her observations, the first Dido Kent historical mystery is a delightful tale. Though the heroine arrives at the bequest of her niece to solve the disappearance, she also works the seemingly related (to her) murder mystery. Aunt Dido makes the tale as a sort of Miss Marple in Regency England with witty asides and observations. Although a few readers will feel her take is too contemporary, sub-genre fans will appreciate the spinster’s effort to solve two mysteries.

Harriet Klausner