30 January 2010

Review: CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Penguin Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-14-311293-8, 262 pages,

Ursula Marlowe is the only daughter of one of the richest industrialists in England. Her father is a self-made man and has seen to it that his daughter has had a excellent education, including a degree at Oxford. Disconcertingly this has made her very politically aware, taking part in the suffragette movement, and socialist protests that seem to cut at the very heart of her father's operations. Robert Marlowe does not approve of some of the friends Ursula has made, and so when she gets an urgent phone call from one of them early in the morning she leaves the house quickly and quietly.

Her friend, Winifred Stanford-Jones, a fellow suffragette, has woken in bed to find her lover lying next to her, murdered. Freddie has absolutely no memory of how she got to bed, and certainly none of the murder. Ursula calls a close family friend, a Kings Counsel, Lord Wrotham, who quickly takes charge of the situation. He sends Ursula away saying that her involvement in a scandal of this sort will do great harm to her father's business.

Time passes and Ursula becomes convinced that the police regard Winifred as the murderer, and are determined to charge her. When the father of the dead girl commits suicide, Ursula comes across evidence that links her father to the dead girl's family.

The plot of CONSEQUENCES OF SIN is mainly played out against the background of London in 1910-1911, but also takes Ursula and Lord Wrotham to the Orinoco River in Venezuela. There were times when I struggled to hold on to this branch of the plot, despite what I'm sure were great efforts by the author to make it tight. Suffragette London felt very authentic, with evidence of considerable research. Social customs and mores of the period are well explained, and there is an understated romantic element that adds interest.

CONSEQUENCES OF SIN may remind some readers of the early Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs) books although these are set a little later. It reminded me of a semi-gothic (that's probably the wrong descriptor) style of novel that I read a lot in the 1970s by authors like Dorothy Eden and  Victoria Holt. More recently Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher books come to mind.

My rating: 4.3

Other links to check:

Clare Langely-Hawthorne was raised in England and Australia. She was an attorney in Melbourne before moving to the United States where she began her career as a writer. She lives in Oakland, California, with her family. CONSEQUENCES OF SIN is her first novel and has been followed up by The Serpent and the Scorpion (2008).
I met Clare in Hawaii in March 2009 at LCC and remember that she still has her love of Vegemite - the mark of a true Aussie!


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - I do like historical mysteries, so this sounds quite interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I have this book on a shelf here somewhere. I know I have read about it before and thought it would be something I would like. Thanks for reminding me!

Booklover Book Reviews said...

I love a good historical mystery, and this sounds very enticing. Never heard of this author before, will put her on my list of people to keep on my radar.


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