The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton (2009)

April 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm (historical mystery, mystery)

Boston, 1773:  Abigail Adams, wife of anti-British activist John Adams, discovers a brutally murdered woman in the kitchen of a friend’s house.  Since this is a mystery novel, she winds up trying to find out who killed this stranger, along with where her friend has disappeared to, because the British authorities seem determined to pin the crime on her husband.

Fortunately, she finds an unexpected ally in the fact-oriented British Lieutenant Coldstone, and uses her extensive social and political connections to ferret out details, connections, and eventually solve the crime.

The author clearly has read the Adams correspondence, and intensively researched the social, legal, religious, and material culture of Revolutionary Massachusetts, but none of that gets in the way of the story.   The novel is full of beautifully woven-in historical detail, with vivid characters in Abigail, John, and other historical figures (as well as those that I presume are invented), and I adored it.

It’s written very much from Abigail’s point of view, with her running mental commentary on politics, religion, race, class, domestic life, and so forth.  I found her completely engaging, the plot carefully constructed around the peculiar advantages and disadvantages of Abigail’s social and political status, and the climax marvelously fraught and satisfying.

I’m already partway through the second of the series, A Marked Man.

By the way, “Hamilton” is a pseudonym for Barbara Hambly, and I highly recommend her Benjamin January series (set in early 19th century New Orleans) as well.

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