Calkins’ debut novel, “A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate” introduces Lucy Campion, serving girl to a London magistrate in 1665. Intellectually curious, trustworthy, and well educated for her position, Lucy happily serves her master who takes an interest in her keen mind and opinions. The household is an unusually pleasant place for both the servants and those they serve (think Downtown Abbey), and it includes the magistrate and his wife, their son Adam, their ward Lucas who is destined for a career in the church, and a close knit group of servants. One morning, the household is awakened by a constable at the magistrate’s door who comes to inform him of two murders, both young ladies lured to lonely areas and brutally stabbed. It isn’t long before Bessie, the ladies’ maid of the household, also disappears, this time with all her clothes and the master’s silver in tow. Lucy is devastated by the loss of her close friend and becomes even more distraught when Lucy’s brother Will, Bessie’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, is charged with the murder. Lucy vows to do all she can to find Bessie’s killer and prove her brother’s innocence, but she gains the help of an unlikely ally along the way, Adam. Adam is a barrister in training and someone who has taken an interest in Lucy’s sharp mind and pretty face. Uneasy about the mutual attraction between themselves but finding few other allies, Adam and Lucy work together to exonerate her brother and uncover the killer as both the plague and The Great Fire of London threaten their progress.
The details woven into the tale by Calkins give her readers a rich portrait of life in seventeenth century London. The Great Fire of London, the plague, and a comprehensive look into the legal system of the time all work together to put the story on solid ground. It is easy to identify with Lucy’s dilemma as one who is smart and ambitious but one who is nonetheless trapped by her station within society. I was rather disappointed when the killer was ultimately unmasked – without providing a spoiler, this “type” of person is quite often assigned the role of murderer in mysteries, so it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the killer beforehand. I would have liked to see a more unlikely person be identified as the culprit – but Lucy is a plucky, entertaining character and since the sequel to this book is being published April 22nd (“From the Charred Remains”), I look forward to reading what adventures Lucy will be up to next.