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by Marion Chesney
St Martin's Minotaur, July 2004
240 pages
ISBN: 0312304536

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Marion Chesney, or Marion McChesney to give her proper name, is also known as M C Beaton, author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series of mysteries. And she's also a writer of historical romances under the pseudonyms Sarah Chester, Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Marion Gibbons, Jennie Tremaine, and Charlotte Ward.

Since about 1980, well over 75 romance novels have been published bearing her name, as well as 19 Hamish Macbeth and 13 Agatha Raisin, a standalone, and now two books set in Edwardian England with Captain Harry Cathcart and Lady Rose Summer solving crimes and not falling in love.

In HASTY DEATH, Rose is adamant that she wants to go out and earn her own living. She wants to see how the lower classes live, and thinks it might be a lark if she, and her maid, ex-chorus girl Daisy Levine, go out to work. She has bought a couple of typewriters, and she and Daisy have become reasonably proficient in the use of this new-fangled machine.

Short of having her declared insane, and put away, the Earl and Countess of Hedshire have no idea how to tame their wild daughter. The Earl calls in Captain Henry Cathcart, who helped him out of a sticky situation the previous year, and asks his advice. Cathcart suggests that he set up a job for Rose and Daisy but the Earl would have to pay the salaries. Cathcart suggests that Rose will soon get tired of playing working girl. The two girls move to a businesswomen's hostel in Bloomsbury, a very different scale of living from that which Rose is used to.

When Freddy Pomfret, a rather silly member of Lady Rose's social class is found murdered, Rose gladly leaves the hostel and returns home to try to solve the crime.

Chesney is a good story teller. The picture of live in pre-World War I London is vivid, with its great disparity between the wealthy and the others. At one point, the Scotland Yard detective asks Cathcart what is bothering him. He answers: "I went for a drive all night because I could not sleep. I was in the Boer War you know. It's the reports of Kitchener's concentration camps in South Africa packed with starving women and children. For us British to behave like that is sickening. It is tantamount to treason to criticise our glorious victory, but I would see those donkeys of leaders, Buller, Kitchener and Lord Roberts, in the dock for having caused so much death and misery. Thanks to the new photograph reporting showing pictures of the misery of the Boer women and children, we are the shame of the world."

Just change a few names and places and that paragraph could be used to speak to today's problems. The gaps between rich and poor are still there, and, at least in the US, widening all the time. Even if you dislike Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin, try SNOBBERY WITH VIOLENCE (the first in the series) or start here with HASTY DEATH. I don't think you will be disappointed

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, July 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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