In 1760s England, private tutor Robert Fairfax is charged with escorting his pupil, Matthew Hemsley, to London for a bit of town polish. But Fairfax is apprehensive: how can he introduce Matthew to the worldly, sophisticated atmosphere of London while at the same time protecting him from bad influences? Unfortunately, during their very first trip to the theater, Matthew instantly falls in love with the beautiful and popular actress Lucy Dove. Though she is a sweet and talented girl, her profession is most unsuitable, so Fairfax hopes that Matthew’s infatuation is only temporary. But Matthew gets into even bigger trouble when Lucy is murdered shortly afterwards, and he is found at the crime scene under very suspicious circumstances. When Matthew is actually arrested for the murder, Fairfax knows it is his duty to clear his pupil’s name — which means launching an investigation to discover the real killer.
I discovered this series by accident at a library book sale where the second and third books were available for 25 cents each, so of course I had to track down the first book as well! I was intrigued by the concept of a Georgian mystery, since I haven’t seen many novels set in that era (especially compared to the much more popular 19th century!). Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, given the magnitude of my TBR list already), I’ve discovered a new mystery series to enjoy! I loved the period detail: the crush of theatergoers more interested in each other than in what’s happening onstage; the elaborate wigs, patches, and high heels worn by aristocratic men and women alike; the rudimentary knowledge of medicine, including the ingestion of mercury as a cure for venereal disease. It’s a fascinating time period, and March really brings the era to life. I also liked Robert Fairfax as a sleuth, and I look forward to seeing how his complex character will develop in subsequent books. Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of historical mysteries!