Sunday, March 19

Face Down Beside St. Anne's Well (A Lady Appleton Mystery) by

Review by Theodore Feit

There have been nine previous novels in this series, but, I must confess, this is the first I’ve read.  It is set in the year 1575, and the setting and language is Elizabethan.  A three page glossary of terms is provided to assist the reader in various quaint terms.  On the whole, the cast of characters, period and customs described are charming.

Without going into a lot of detail, at the heart of the mystery is the discovery of a body face down in a well.  It is ruled a case of accidental drowning.  However, teenage Rosamond, a ward of Lady Appleton, believes it was really a murder.  She tries to enlist a friend to provide her with information about poisoned mushrooms, which she thinks is the cause of death.  Lady Appleton, who has extensive knowledge of poisons, learns of this, and travels to join her ward to protect her.

The plot is overlaid with possible intrigues to free Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, with claims to Elizabeth’s crown, as well of that of France.  Other unusual devices include depicting teenage rebellion and willfulness, bisexual alliances and casual nude mixed bathing, common at spas at the time (and you thought nude beaches a relatively modern development).  Spying, religious antagonism ˜Catholic, Church of England, Protestant and Huguenot˜ and treason all play a part in complicating the tightly woven plot.

Some readers may find the stilted language difficult but really it contributes to the authenticity of the novel.  The language and details are essential to this enjoyable tale.

Recommended.

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