Title: On a Desert Shore
Series: A Regency Mystery #4
Author: S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery
From the publisher—
Protecting an heiress should be an easy job for Bow Street Runner John Chase. But the heiress—daughter of rich London merchant Hugo Garrod and a slave-housekeeper on his Jamaican property—is no conventional society miss. Educated to take a place among Regency England’s upper crust and marry well, she has failed at London’s social scene and lives isolated among the Garrod family in Clapham. And someone is playing her malicious tricks, some of which recall her island heritage of Obeah.
John Chase needs to determine whether Marina is indeed a victim—or is herself a delusional and malicious trickster. If the trickster is real, is it her rejected suitor and cousin Ned Honeycutt? His demure sister? Their devoted aunt who acts as the Garrod housekeeper? A clergyman friend? Everyone around Hugo Garrod has a stake in how he disposes of his immense wealth.
Meanwhile Mrs. Penelope Wolfe, an abandoned wife, flouts convention by earning her living with her pen. She’s in love with barrister Edward Buckler and hesitant to further scandalize society by breaking any more rules. Hugo Garrod invites her to join his household and put her pen to work. Her assignment takes her into an exotic world where menace lurks at every turn of the garden path and the façade of propriety masks danger.
To solve the case, Chase must grasp the enigma of Marina, an expert in self-concealment, who challenges his assumptions and confronts him with difficult truths. And, with the aid of Penelope and Edward Buckler, reveal a clever killer.
On a Desert Shore stretches from the brutal colony of Jamaica to the prosperity and apparent peace of suburban London. Here a father’s ambition to transplant a child of mixed blood and create an English dynasty will lead to terrible deeds.
I’ve been trying for many years to figure out why the Regency period appeals to me so much in both historical fiction and mysteries (and real history) but I can’t quite put my finger on it. My attraction to the era comes and goes; back in my 20’s (the dark ages), I was really into Regency historical fiction, then I fell off, then I went back to those and mysteries, then I fell off again and now I’m back once more. It seems I can’t stay away but I do know that part of my liking for it is a deep-seated love of American history and this period was certainly important to the left side of the pond.
Anyhoo, there are particular authors that I can always count on to carry me away to the Regency and S.K. Rizzolo is one of them, without fail. I love the history of the Bow Street Runners, the beginnings of London’s police, and John Chase really brings the Runners to life. Having to cope with two distinctly different cultures in his latest case brings out the best in him, piquing his natural-born curiosity and his (perhaps) unusual intelligence. When Hugo Garrod engages Penelope Wolfe to interview him for a magazine piece at the estate, she goes against the best advice of her dear friend Edward Buckler because she is in real need of income since her ne’er-do-well husband abandoned her. It’s only natural for Chase to accept her help in finding the culprit behind the malicious events surrounding Marina, given their successful collaborations in the past, and Edward finds it impossible to remain uninvolved.
A highlight of this series is the attention the author pays to various social issues of the day and in this book she tackles the British feelings regarding slavery and racism, specifically bringing it out in the story of a biracial daughter of a wealthy British merchant and his determination to introduce her to society. That girl, Marina, comes into her own during this very stressful time but what exactly is causing her so much difficulty in the rarified world of British society if not the facts of her birth?
I so enjoyed being back in the company of Penelope, John and Edward and it’s their personal stories that really draw me in with the crimes they work on being the icing on the cake. The ways they find to get to whatever truths are eluding them are entertaining and sometimes inspiring and, once again, Ms. Rizzolo takes us along for a delightful journey. The last few sentences leave the reader wanting more and I really wish I could twitch my nose and bring that fifth book into being right now 😉
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.
About the Author
S.K. Rizzolo earned an MA in literature before becoming a high school English teacher and writer. Her Regency mystery series features a trio of crime-solving friends: a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. On a Desert Shore is the fourth title in the series following The Rose in the Wheel, Blood for Blood, and Die I Will Not. Rizzolo lives in Los Angeles.
Follow the tour here.
“Fans of traditional whodunits with a closed circle of
suspects will enjoy Rizzolo’s fourth historical featuring
savvy Bow Street Runner John Chase.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“This fourth outing for Chase (Die I Will Not, 2014, etc.)
blends thwarted love, class and racial issues, partly convincing
historical details, and solid sleuthing.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Bow Street runner John Chase is hired to protect a young
heiress from Jamaica, and Mrs. Penelope Wolfe is engaged
to live in the woman’s household as an added layer of
protection. Together, they must work to uncover a ruthless
and diabolical killer. An engrossing fourth historical
adventure (after Die I Will Not).” – Library Journal