Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: December 7th, 2021
Pages: 336, hardcover
In the spring of 1853, private detective Laetitia Rodd receives a delicate request from a retired actor, whose days on the stage were ended by a theater fire ten years before. His great friend, and the man he rescued from the fire, Thomas Transome, has decided to leave his wife, who now needs assistance in securing a worthy settlement. Though Mrs. Rodd is reluctant to get involved with the scandalous world of the theater, she cannot turn away the woman in need. She agrees to take the case.
But what starts out as a simple matter of negotiation becomes complicated when a body is discovered in the burnt husk of the old theater. Soon Mrs. Rodd finds herself embroiled in family politics, rivalries that put the Capulets and Montagues to shame, and betrayals on a Shakespearean scale. Mrs. Rodd will need all her investigatory powers, not to mention her famous discretion, to solve the case before tragedy strikes once more.
For readers of the Grantchester Mysteries, The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden is the charming third mystery in Kate Saunder’s series about Laetitia Rodd, the indomitable lady detective.
The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden is the third outing for Laetitia Rodd. Her clergyman husband’s death left her to earn her living, and she has embarked on a career as a private detective.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series to date, and this story is no exception. Laetitia is asked by a neighbor, who is a retired actor, to assist in making a divorce settlement between a fellow actor and his wife. As it turns out, Laetitia’s brother is representing the husband, and welcomes her assistance. Not Laetitia’s usual fare, but it’s a paycheck, if either party truly has any money to spare.
But old sins cast long shadows, and the discovery of the body of a man who disappeared ten years ago plunges Laetitia into a murder investigation and crosses her path with that of Inspector Blackbeard once again, who, while willing to assist Laetitia, is still somewhat dismissive of her conclusions.
Laetitia is a well-drawn character. She is consistent and readers will cheer her on as she works to keep her independence and her modest living as a working woman in the mid-1800s. Her brother swoops in on a semi-regular basis, and we don’t know a great deal about him, his wife, or their ever-increasing brood of children.
Inspector Blackbeard, who is also widowed, may or may not become a love interest. For now, it’s enough to see them gain respect and understanding of each other, and assist each other in investigations.
Now, while I enjoyed it, I will say I figured out the motive well ahead of Laetitia, and honestly, as a clergyman’s wife, she should have seen this type of scandal before. Her naivety as a bit surprising, and caused the book to drag a bit. It’s not quite as strong as the first two in the series, but I still highly recommend it and am impatiently waiting for the fourth book.