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by Tasha Alexander
Minotaur, October 2023
292 pages
ISBN: 1250872332

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In A COLD HIGHLAND WIND, the latest in the Lady Emily Mystery series, Lady Emily and her family are in Scotland visiting their good friend Jeremy, the Duke of Bainbridge, when in no time at all, they're embroiled in a murder investigation. As with the other Lady Emily mysteries, events in the past throw long shadows, and this time, elements of the current events echo those of the Scottish witch trials. Alternating chapters trace Lady Emily's investigation in 1905 and events in the lives of Tansy and Rossalyn in 1676. Also as in previous books in the series, the main emphasis is on the 1905 mystery, but while the chapters detailing life in 1676 are shorter, their inclusion adds depth to the main story line and another interesting plot. Neither section is heavy- handed in its portrayal of history, but both include enough details to give a believably authentic sense of time and place.

In an author's note, Tasha Alexander explains that inspiration for this story came from "the 'Moorish Lasses,' two enslaved North African women seized from a ship by privateers and given as gifts to James IV." Tansy, in the 1676 story in Alexander's novel, is from Tunisia, having been kidnapped and enslaved before eventually being bought as a wedding gift for Rossalyn. Although Rossalyn frees Tansy, the exploration of their relationship and the situation is another way Alexander adds thought-provoking depth to what is, overall, a fast read with a light touch. Of course, in the 1905 sections, Lady Emily herself also continues, as in previous books in the series, to make the point that women have both the ability and the right to think for themselves. But none of this is to say that A COLD HIGHLAND WIND is a moralizing tale or pedantic tome. It is a cozy mystery where a man with a mysterious past is killed, and a small, close-knit community must come to terms with the fact that one of them is a murderer. There are plenty of interesting characters in both the 1905 and 1676 sections, strong plot lines, lots of red herrings, and even some well-played touches of humor. The reader may figure out who the killer is a bit before the reveal, but the twists and turns of the two plots mixed with believable psychological motivations and interesting interactions all work to keep interest high and pages turning.

Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, October 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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