Archive for February 7th, 2007
I love history, and I am probably predisposed to like any historical mysteries. But A Bitter Chill is different from other books of this ilk in that it is more mystery than history. Which is not necessarily bad, just different.
Those of you who have read historical mysteries have probably come to expect, as I have, the aside moments included by the author to explain how the water wheel, primitive toilet, or butter churn works. But Finnis has done away with that and just dropped us down in 95 A.D. in Roman controlled Britannia (near York in present day England). And while you may miss the detailed descriptions of things and processes from that time, this technique does make for a smoother and better story.
A Bitter Chill centers around two sisters, Aurelia and Albia, who run a mansio (an inn for travelers) with occasional help from their brother, Lucius. The sisters have their hands full when important and demanding guests arrive unexpectedly at the mansio while Lucius is off on some important but secret task. Add in a little extortion, kidnapping, slave trading, Roman politics, a disrupted engagement, and, of course, murder, and you have a complex and enjoyable book.
And yes, along the way you do learn some things about life in that distant era. For those of you who would like additional information about the time, Finnis has kindly included some suggested reading from both ancient and modern authors. This includes, interestingly enough, a cookbook, which I found myself wanting. The book is set during the holiday Saturnalia and features â€œholiday foodsâ€ which sound really good. But you also find yourself wondering what they eat when it isnâ€™t a holiday.
Favorite character? The slave Margarita. She is interesting because of her unusual situation â€“ a beautiful slave with a child to protect has to keep a lot of balls in the air to keep everyone happy. Did I guess it? No. Will I read another? Yes.
Mystery Book Reviews by Liz at http://reviewedbyliz.com Â©2007