A Murder at Rosamund's Gate: Book summary and reviews of A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate

A Lucy Campion Mystery

By Susanna Calkins

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2013,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

In Susanna Calkins's atmospheric debut novel, a chambermaid must uncover a murderer in seventeenth-century plague-ridden London.

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone she loves is wrongly arrested for the crime. In a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren't permitted to defend their clients, and - if the plague doesn't kill them first - public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see this person alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer.

Determined to do just that, Lucy finds herself venturing out of her expected station and into raucous printers' shops, secretive gypsy camps, the foul streets of London, and even the bowels of Newgate prison on a trail that might lead her straight into the arms of the killer.

In her debut novel, Susanna Calkins seamlessly blends historical detail, romance, and mystery into a moving and highly entertaining tale.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Calkin's debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail. Even mystery mavens who winkle out the killer may well enjoy the story anyway." - Kirkus

"Calkins makes Lucy's efforts to find the real killer entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax with London in flames. This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London. - Booklist

"The solution isn't quite at the same level as the other aspects of the plot, but the high-quality writing augurs well for future outings." - Publishers Weekly

"Susanna Calkins makes Restoration England come alive in her terrific debut, A Murder at Rosamund's Gate. Murder, romance, and flawless social history combine into a beautifully crafted mystery that captivates until the very last page." - Stefanie Pintoff, author of In the Shadow of Gotham

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Theresa R. (Sierra Madre, CA)
OK book, nothing special
Although I liked the author's writing style and the historical period she was writing about, I was not impressed with the actual story line. The "mystery" was easy to solve and her characters were not as fully developed as I would have liked. I would probably give this author another chance and read something else by her, but would not recommend this book to anyone.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Juli S. (Portland, OR)
A bit of a disappointment
I had high hopes for this one but it ended up leaving me feeling a bit disappointed. It felt a bit slow, particularly at the beginning. The characters were a bit flat. It felt a little disjointed and didn't flow well. It was almost like two different stories featuring the same characters with the part about the plague simply inserted between two sections of the mystery story. I doubt I'll read more of this series.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carol G. (Little Egg Harbor, NJ)
A Murder at Rosamund's Gate
Great read! Loved it from page 1. A beautiful mystery that keeps one guessing. I loved reading about this period in English history as well. I think the ending could have been stronger and may not please all but overall a definite recommendation.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Therese X. (Calera, AL)
Daring New Mystery Sleuth of the 17th Century
Lucy Campion, a young servant in the benevolent Hargrave household, home to a London magistrate, learns that a constable's early morning visit brings news of a brutal murder. A young woman's unclothed body was found in the north fields with a note nearby requesting a romantic rendezvous. This immediately condemns the woman as immoral and Lucy realizes the victim is guilty till proven innocent. Yet who is interested in finding her killer? Soon, a similar murder happens closer to home, and through observation, Lucy suspects the behavior of one of the family, only to be told by him that an arrest has been made. Her brother, Will, a favorite with the ladies, is being held for murder in Newgate prison. Lucy is galvanized into action,facing the dangers of London and the horrors of the prison to prove her brother's innocence and perhaps bring justice to the murdered women. This new seventeenth-century London mystery series introduces Lucy Campion, a naively fearless young woman motivated by truth. Risking not only her place in a good household, but possibly her life, it's her daring that keeps the reader turning the pages, hoping to find that Lucy has prevailed while bringing a culprit to justice

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Erin J. (Milwaukie, OR)
I found a new historical mystery author to follow
I received a free advance reading copy (ARC) of this book from Bookbrowse.com, and I'm excited to discover a new mystery author to follow, for this is the first in a new series by debut author Susanna Calkins. I really appreciated the Historical Note at the end of the book, detailing how the author worked to make the novel historically accurate aside from some minor tweaks to things like the duties of magistrates and constables, as well as updates to the spelling and phrasing.

There were enough twists and red herrings in the story to keep me from guessing the killer--always a plus. My one quibble is that Adam, the magistrate's grown son, is a bit uneven in characterization, especially related to his actions and treatment of Lucy. Yes, he is drawn toward her, and yes, he feels honor-bound to leave her alone, but his behavior is a pendulum that swings a little too far for plausibility, in my opinion. Still, I have high hopes that their relationship will be better developed over time in subsequent novels.

For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways, primarily, with story secondary. There was no sex and only very mild historical swearing, to the best of my recollection.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Maggie P. (Mount Airy, MD)
Mystery or romance?
I'm not sure if you would call this a historical romance with a bit of mystery or a mystery within a historical romance. No matter, after getting off to a slow start, the story kept me turning the pages. Just when I thought I had it figured out, something else would happen. A great summer read.

...24 more reader reviews

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Susanna Calkins became fascinated with seventeenth century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history and uses her fiction to explore this chaotic period. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons. This is her first novel. Visit her at susannacalkins.com

Dear Reader,

The crime at the heart of A Murder at Rosamund's Gate came to me when I was a graduate student in history. I'd been pouring through ballads and broadsides—the penny press that served as both a source of exaggerated news and a cheap entertainment in seventeenth-century England—and I was struck by the same story that appeared again and again.

These "true accounts" would speak of a woman who'd been found stabbed in a secluded glen or a deserted field. In her pocket, the investigating authorities often found a letter, purportedly from the killer. In this letter, he would usually tell his victim to meet him at 'such-and-such deserted location.' Then he would sign the letter, with either his given name or his initials.

The case seemed open and shut.

Yet, every time I read one of these accounts, I had to wonder: Why didn't the killer search his victim for incriminating evidence before he fled the scene? Didn't it ever occur to him that she might bring the letter—you know, the one with his initials—with her to their rendezvous? I also would wonder: Why did the victims agree to meet these killers? Or perhaps, most simply of all, was some other chap being framed for the crime? No matter what, the story was not just sad, but incomplete.

In some ways, A Murder at Rosamund's Gate became the answer to the questions that never got asked—Who was this woman? Why had she agreed to meet her killer? Did she know him, or had she been tricked? And perhaps most important of all—would she get the justice she deserved?

I decided to focus my story around Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate. Lucy's life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy is wrongly arrested for the crime. In a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren't permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn't kill them first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see her loved one alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer.

Determined to do just that, Lucy finds herself venturing out of her expected station and into raucous printers' shops, secretive gypsy camps, the foul streets of London, and even the bowels of Newgate prison on a trail that might lead her straight into the arms of the killer.

I hope you enjoy the first in this series featuring Lucy Campion!

Cheers!

Susanna

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