Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose
This is the first book in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Series. What attracted me first was the evocative and atmospheric cover, but when I started reading I found that the cover was only one of a number of things I liked about this book.
Set in Regency London, this novel features main characters Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford. Charlotte and Wrexford are from different worlds (though there are hints that Charlotte’s past may not have been so different from Wrexford’s station in life) who join forces to solve a grisly murder for which Wrexford stands accused in the court of public opinion. The dichotomy between Charlotte’s meager circumstances and the opulence in which Wrexford lives is striking, and the author does a fabulous job of releasing each character from his or her presumed caste in society in order to work together in a race against time.
I learned a lot about Regency London, the incredible differences between the haves and the have-nots, and the scientific theories that were all the rage at that time. The aura of mysticism surrounding the notion of alchemy lent a spooky element to the story.
I think my favorite characters are the two young brothers—street urchins—whom Charlotte has taken under her wing. Their desire to please, their street smarts, and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of friendship, love, and honor is wonderful. I hope to see them again.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good English historical mystery, complex characters with intriguing backstories, and a heavy dose of moody settings.