9780752470184Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

A Case of Doubtful Death is the third book in the Frances Doughty series but the first one I have read. This was very much a cozy mystery and it had an excellent Sherlockian feel… if Holmes and Watson had been women.

Frances Doughty had the profession of private investigator thrust upon her. Her expected profession of being a chemist and dispensing medicine from the family shop was cut short when her father died unexpectedly and left her with too much debt. She investigated and solved a mystery for some important people and so she decided to try her hand as a private investigator. This is 1880s London so women doing investigations is a borderline scandalous undertaking, not to mention that the general consensus is that women should leave such matters in the hands of men who are ‘more capable’ of dealing with these things. Needless to say, Frances and her partner Sarah are supporters of the women’s suffrage movement.

Frances and her friend Sarah have been building their business and are getting enough clients to keep them living comfortably in a flat of their own, but they are a long way from being independent. Frances is the brains of the operation and Sarah is the brawn. They take cases from missing persons to missing pets, though the pets are generally taken on reluctantly.

The sister and future brother-in-law of Henry Palmer come to Frances. Henry has been missing almost a week and they are afraid something awful has happened. It seems a little too coincidental that his employer Dr. Mackenzie died the same night. Frances agrees to take the case to find the missing man. The more that Frances digs into the disappearance the less it appears to be a simple case. More and more characters are drawn into the tapestry of the story being woven by a master. Frances is determined to find the truth, no matter how often people keep lying to her.

To me, the story started off a little slow and it took some effort to get into the book. However, it was like a train leaving the station as it just kept picking up speed. It was an excellent mystery and it had some VERY good twists and turns. I also liked how Frances was more like a real PI where she has multiple cases overlapping all the time. Stratmann even added a little humor by crossing some of the cases in inventive ways. Highly recommend this cozy mystery series.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The History Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.