First in the
Reviewed by Joy
The murder of Viscount Malking is rescue heaven-sent, to a lot of people. In just the few hours after Lady Winifred meets him, the Viscount insults everyone, attempts to rape a guest and announces his intention of killing the pet that defends her, strikes another woman, tortures a footman for the fun of it, and reneges on the settlement with which he bought his terrified bride-to-be.
This creature, so far beyond the bounds of decency, is accepted as a son-in-law by the father of Claudine Tuttle for reasons unknown and unimaginable. When the Viscount is murdered, the only excuse for bringing his murderer to book is because some person believes killing is the best solution, and might keep doing it.
Lady Winifred Westerly and her cousin Dickie, Marquis of Danleigh were invited as houseguests for Claudine’s wedding. They found a very smoky situation. In addition to giving the Viscount free rein to commit horrors, Mr. Tuttle has rejected the rich heiress Anne Hessinger as a bride for his son Osrick. Baron Von Graff’s presence as a coincidental guest visiting Janet Tuttle is entirely too convenient, considering his obvious grudge against Viscount Malking. A young local man, Robert Buford, is found attempting entry into Claudine’s room through the window. And Mr. Tuttle is having dangerous rages that make no sense.
The job of the self-styled Executioner of Bow Street is to solve the Viscount’s murder, in a flamboyant, bulldog fashion which he enjoys more than anyone else does. The Executioner and our heroine, artless, accident-prone Lady Fred, are the comic relief among this unpleasant family. Between Osrick’s sulks, Claudine’s temperament, and Janet’s harsh dedication to family, readers are in need of some relief. When author Melissa McCann began writing mysteries, she threw herself wholeheartedly into the creation of unpleasant people. It made her suspense novels more believable but not as good company; the reader may have an inclination to flee. In LADY FRED, it is the outsiders who make good company for the reader.
Never say Melissa McCann lacks invention. None of her suspects are standard characters. They do the unexpected and think in unpredictable ways. Neither are the four romances in LADY FRED standard romances. Oddly enough it is Freddy, who is so unconventional that society probably wouldn’t tolerate her if it wasn’t for her wealth, whose romance is the most standard type for a Regency novel. The others are, in order: quirky, unusually profound, and sinister. These romances take – shall we say – an unusual road to resolution.
There are hints in LADY FRED about the strange family backgrounds of Lady Fred and Dickie. The sequel DARKE’S FOLLY will explore Dickie’s family. It is to be hoped the final book of the trilogy will tell us more about Freddy’s family. I want to know what made her the blithely unconventional individual that she is.
Melissa McCann cannot be confined to any one genre. I make every effort to read anything she writes. Her SKIN (semi-romantic science fiction adventure) and HONORIA (Regency comedy) are highly recommended. Up until the delightfully entertaining DARKE’S FOLLY, McCann’s Regency romantic suspense novels have been the most challenging of her genres this far because of her edgily authentic suspects. DARKE’S FOLLY returns to the bubbly humor that made HONORIA such a favorite of mine.
Oct 2005 Review
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