Friday, February 10, 2012

A Personal Devil

The first book in the historical mystery Magdalene la Batarde series was one of my favorite new series books that I discovered last year.  As usual, I was a little worried about how the second one would go, since my expectations were pretty high. But I need not have been concerned - the second one was just as good, if not better than, the first.  This is my favorite kind of mystery series, where the characters and the events in their personal lives are just as interesting and compelling as the mystery element itself.

I recommend starting with the first book of the series,  A Mortal Bane, to avoid spoilers about the first mystery that are mentioned in this second novel.

The murder in this installment involves the very nasty wife of one of the Old Priory Guest House's clients, Mainard. He is a very kind man with a severe facial deformity who is hopelessly in love with Sabina, one of the whores who works in the Guest House.  She could care less about his disfigurement because she is completely blind, and when he asks her to come live in the apartments above his shop, Sabina leaves her employment with Magdalene and moves there, enjoying Mainard's company as she can.  While Mainard's wife wants nothing to do with him, she is furious that he keeps a woman, and makes herself even more unpleasant than usual. When his wife is murdered, Sabina is frantic with worry that suspicion will fall on her beloved Mainard, and she begs Magdalene to help find out who the real killer is.  Magdalene enlists the help of Sir Bellamy, the attractive man who helped her solve the mystery in the first novel, and together they work to unravel the strands of a puzzle that is difficult to solve because so many people thoroughly disliked Mainard's wife and wished her dead.

This is a top-notch historical mystery, with memorable characters and an interesting puzzle to solve.  The historical details lend a rich background to the tale, and I look forward to reading further books in the series.  I'm a little sad that there are only four, and I hope that in future books we will learn more about the tantalizing bits and pieces mentioned in passing about Magdalene's mysterious past.

Books in the Magdalene la Batarde series:
1. A Mortal Bane
2. A Personal Devil
3. A Bone of Contention
4. Chains of Folly

A Personal Devil (#2 in the Magdalene la Batarde series) by Roberta Gellis; narrated by Nadia May (Blackstone Audio, 2005)

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