death on the sapphire book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

The years between 1890 and 1910 were truly challenging years for women in England, especially for younger, intelligent women who were beginning to chafe at the bonds that had held them fast for centuries.

As education became more accessible to women, many of them began to throw off the rules of the past, in favor of more freedom and encouragement to use the brains they had. One such forward-thinking young woman is Lady Frances Ffolkes, daughter of an aristocratic family, who has had the unique advantage of an advanced education – at Vassar, no less – in the United States. This is indeed an unusual circumstance – actually being encouraged to think!

Now, in 1906 London, Lady Frances is asked for help by her good friend Lady Katherine ‘Kat’ Colcombe, who is in mourning for her brother, Maj. Daniel Colcombe. The rumor is that he has committed suicide, but she cannot accept such a catastrophe, believing that her brother was too much the soldier to have done such a thing. Furthermore, he had been writing a memoir about one particular battle of the recent Boer War. Kat is determined that her brother would not have abandoned the project before it was completed. And if that wasn’t bad enough, now the box containing the pages of the memoir has disappeared from Danny’s study. Could Lady Frances please help find the missing manuscript?

The puzzle goes right to the heart of the Home Office and military secrets, not to mention the British Secret Service, and even Scotland Yard! Although Franny’s brother is the current Marquess of Seaforth, she is enterprising enough to live in a residence hotel for genteel ladies, which allows her more freedom than she could have while living at home. Of course, she still has her lady’s maid, June Mallow, who grows immensely during this story, from merely looking after her lady’s clothing, to actually protectively looking after her lady, while Franny is out and about.

Of course, as an attractive and wealthy young woman, Franny frequently finds herself the target of various gentlemen of all levels of society. However, between herself and her maid, there is enough wisdom to discern the truth behind each of them, thus enabling her to remove herself from danger before serious trouble erupts.

I enjoyed Death on the Sapphire immensely–it contains every element of a book to be cherished. An engrossing story, characters who are human enough to make mistakes, but secure enough to admit to them, while continuing toward the solution of the puzzle. It is also very true to the era in which it is set. I found no ambiguities or anachronisms at all! No one is ever all-anything: there are always degrees of confidence and ability to be taken into consideration. With age comes wisdom, so they say, but wisdom is not only knowing what you do know, but perhaps more important is knowing what you don’t know. And perhaps shouldn’t know, either. I look forward to the next adventure of Lady Franny.

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First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crooked Lane Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.