From the Charred Remains, the second book by Susanna Calkins in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series, comes out March 17, 2015 in paperback, after publishing last year in hardcover and e-book format. I’m celebrating with a review today, as I read it last year and inadvertently left it in my drafts section! That was remiss of me, because I really liked this book and I’d been excited to tell you about it.
I read the first book in her historical mystery series, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, when it came out in 2013, you can see that review HERE and an interview about her debut HERE. If you haven’t read either, I suggest both. In reading them all, you’ll get to know Lucy better; however, these can also be read stand alone as Susanna does a wonderful job of including enough information that you won’t be missing too much. And coming in April 2015, is her third book in the series, The Masque of a Murderer.
Lucy is a chambermaid, a former chambermaid as we read this book two of the series, and I was thrilled to see that she was taking on a different job, working at the print shop in publishing and selling! Right there, that part of book peaked my interest. I loved the early description of how the printing press worked, the intricate block system. I felt myself as if I were Lucy, experiencing it all. Lucy as a quality about her that makes her seem very authentic. As a journalist and lover of books, like many other inquisitive minds, I knew that Lucy becoming an apprentice in this world would only serve her well with her curiosity (and if she happened upon any other murders, of course).
In the 1600s in England, printing was a busy profession and one that set the pulse of the area lived, as people read their news and opinions through the written word on paper and in book form that were sold amid the streets daily. Many time political, religious, and social outrage graced the pages, as well as propaganda. However, working in this field allowed Lucy, as a single woman, some freedom of movement that other women might not be allowed.
I loved Susanna’s characterization of Lucy in A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but I enjoyed even more her growth in this second book. I really appreciated her determination and confidence in creating a life for herself. She’s a very detailed and analytical person and that’s someone with whom I can relate. Plus, it’s perfect for solving murders, of which Lucy just can’t seem to get away from, even if she isn’t sure that something she truly wants to continue to do in her life! But aren’t the greatest sleuths like that…they are rather unlikely and kind of just fall into the role. That allows us, as readers, I think to see a more authentic view, almost as if we are able to solve the murder ourselves too.
I thought the book was so interesting historically as Susanna set it during the time of the Great London Fire of 1666, which overtook much of the central part of London destroying about 80,000 homes in the process and many churches. The fallout from that was economic and social issues as many were without homes, work, or their goods. Rebellion simmered at an already volatile time. Susanna sets up the murder in her book in a way that utilizes this turning point in Restoration London history by having a body be found, one charred during the fire, when all is extinguished, and laying with a knife in its chest. Was this person murdered before the flames ignited? What are the strange items found by the body? Lucy gets right to exploring this question with Constable Duncan, putting her intelligence and wit to the test.
All of the historical detail, Lucy’s personality, and the mysterious plot all made this reader turn the pages with lightening speed. Sometimes historical detail can bog down a mystery, as well as the writing style, but Susanna’s books don’t do either. The historical description is just enough to make a reader feel as if they’ve entered the time and place, while her sentences are well-constructed and flow with ease. There are a myriad of twists to keep you on your toes and engaged.
Susanna is one of the best historical mystery writers on the market today! From the Charred Remains enticed me, educated me, and most of all entertained me, and I am looking with eager anticipation to the next books in her series. Susanna is very original and stands on her own well in the 17th Century historical fiction mystery genre. In this era of historical mysteries, there aren’t many others who write and research with as much captivating quality.
Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)
Paperback, 352 pages; Also available hardback or e-book
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 17, 2015-Paperback; 2014 Debut Hardback)
It’s 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady’s maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact–the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.
Searching for a purpose now that there’s no lady in the magistrate’s household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can’t help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself.
With From the Charred Remains, Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.
Praise for Susanna Calkins~
“Susanna Calkins makes Restoration England come alive in her terrific debut, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate. Murder, romance, and flawless social history combine into a beautifully crafted mystery that captivates until the very last page.” —Stefanie Pintoff
“Calkins’s debut brings London on the eve of the Great Plague to vivid life . . . the high quality writing augurs well for future outings.” —Publishers Weekly
“Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the [killer] entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax . . . This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London.” —Booklist
“Calkin’s debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail. Even mystery mavens who winkle out the killer may well enjoy the story anyway.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[An] excellently written, well-researched and engaging debut.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
Susanna Calkins Biography~
SUSANNA CALKINS became fascinated with seventeenth-century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history. A former pirate, she once served on the Golden Hinde–a museum replica of Sir Frances Drake’s ship–now dry docked in the Thames. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons.
The Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (2013), featuring Lucy Campion, is her first novel and was shortlisted for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). Her second novel is From the Charred Remains (2104) and was shortlisted for a Lovey and recently nominated for LCC Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third mystery in the Lucy series is set to come out in April 2015, called The Masque of a Murderer.
Find her on the web at: www.susannacalkins.com