Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Masque of a Murderer: A Mystery in the Aftermath of Disaster in 17th Century London

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Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Minotaur Books/St. Martins Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 323
Series: Book Three, Lucy Campion Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

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02_The Masque of a Murderer_CoverIn Susanna Calkins’ next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her—that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.

Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate's son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.

In The Masque of a Murderer, Susanna Calkins has once again combined finely wrought characters, a richly detailed historical atmosphere, and a tightly-plotted mystery into a compelling read.

Lucy Campion Mystery Series Titles

Book One: A Murder at Rosamund's Gate
Macavity Award Finalist Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (2014)
Barnes & Noble Bookseller's Selection ("Mystery Pick" and "Featured New Arrival")
Chicago Book Review - Best Books of 2013

Book Two: From the Charred Remains (Paperback release on March 17, 2015)
Short-listed for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (2015)

Book Three: The Masque of a Murderer (coming April 2015!)


I  hadn't read the previous two Lucy Campion novels when I agreed to participate in this blog tour.  After I downloaded it from Net Galley, I decided to read A Murder at Rosamund's Gate for background.  It turned out not to be necessary.  Susanna Calkins provides all the background about Lucy in  The Masque of a Murderer.  Yet readers who are curious about what Lucy's life was like as a chambermaid should pick up that first book.

 I'm more interested in Lucy's unusual apprenticeship to a printer myself.   The only reason why such a thing was possible is because this novel took place in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London.  This disaster wreaked death and chaos on the city of London which brought about social change.  I noticed that it didn't change social attitudes.  Lucy couldn't be admitted to the printer's guild as an official apprentice.  Her master didn't treat her the same way as his male apprentice and didn't have the same expectations of her.  Lucy probably felt that she was lucky to get the opportunity to learn the printer's trade.  She probably also knew that if she demanded official status, she would lose her position.  Attitudes usually change slowly.   Without someone like Lucy working in a printer's shop to show that it's possible for women to enter this profession,  there could have been no progress.

Lucy also showed courage and persistence in her pursuit of the killer.  When the men who become involved in this investigation try to sideline her, she refuses to allow them to stop her.  Her role was crucial because she had access to the Quaker household in which the victim resided, and Quakers were willing to talk to her.

The Quakers of 17th century England were very different from modern Quakers.  They were troublemakers.  They aggressively sought conversions, and probably thought that persecution would bring more people into the fold.  This had been the strategy of the early Christian martyrs of ancient Rome. I expect that toleration wouldn't have suited their aims.  They valued their non-Quaker allies, but seemed to expect that they would become Quakers.  I didn't find these Quakers very sympathetic.  Their missionary zeal irritated me.  Lucy had far more patience with them than I would have had in her place.

The mystery became predictable at a certain point.  The perpetrator  had the same sort of background that we find in contemporary crime novels.  Since I have read so many of them, I found it too easy to spot the pattern.   Then the plot became more about taking the killer into custody than discovering whodunit.

I liked Lucy and several of the other characters, and found the book entertaining, but I don't think it was particularly memorable.  I would definitely be willing to read future books dealing with this protagonist.  As a printer's apprentice  who is exposed to all the latest political and religious tracts, Lucy has a finger on the pulse of her times.   She is certain to get swept up in all sorts of controversies.  This series has loads of potential.


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About the Author

03_Susanna Calkins_AuthorBorn and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, where she is an educator at Northwestern University. With a PhD in history, her historical mysteries feature Lucy Campion, a 17th century chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, was a finalist for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). The second in this series, From the Charred Remains, is currently a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, The Masque of a Murderer, will be released in April 2015.

For more information and to subscribe to Susanna Calkins' newsletter please visit her website. You can also follow her blog, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Masque of a Murderer Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 16
Tuesday, March 17
Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please
Wednesday, March 18
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, March 20
Monday, March 23
Review & Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, March 25
Review & Interview at The Emerald City Book Review
Tuesday, March 31
Wednesday, April 1
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Thursday, April 2
Monday, April 6
Tuesday, April 7
Spotlight at The Genre Queen
Thursday, April 9
Review at The Lit Bitch
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Friday, April 10
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, April 13
Tuesday, April 14
Review at Book Babe
Thursday, April 16
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Friday, April 17
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

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