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Death of a Colonial (Sir John Fielding Mysteries) Hardcover – September 13, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blind 18th-century magistrate Sir John Fielding, hero of Alexander's popular series of historical detective fiction (Jack, Knave and Fool, etc.), here lends his investigative skills to the mystery surrounding the claimant to the vast estate of the late Lord Laningham. Since Fielding sentenced the last heir, Arthur Paltrow, to hanging for murder, he has a personal interest in the case. As before in the series, events are filtered through the eyes of Jeremy Proctor, the orphan Fielding unofficially adopted, whose natural talent for tracing the logic of events is fostered by the magistrate. The Fielding mysteries are always notable for their sense of place and rich historical detail, but Alexander relies more than usual this go-around on his descriptive powers, capturing perfectly the sybaritic pleasures of 18th-century Bath and the ebullience of the university community at Oxford. The plot, by contrast, feels perfunctory. If the claimant is illegitimate, the estate will go to King George III, and the king's solicitor-general, Sir Patrick Spenser, has convened a secret committee to make sure that the king gets his due. The claimant, who calls himself Lawrence Paltrow and is supposedly the younger brother of Arthur Paltrow, has turned up in England after eight years in the colonies, and his mother, overlooking certain physical discrepancies, claims to recognize him. Fielding reluctantly takes on the task of disabusing the mother. Promptly after his visit, she is killedAa death in which the circumstances recall an eight-year-old unsolved murder. What gray eminence stands behind the sequence of events in both deaths? This is a brisk and picturesque outing, but its relatively weak story line separates it from Alexander's best.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Alexander's Sir John Fielding novels aren't as well known as Anne Perry's historical mysteries, but they should be. Set in 1770s London, the stories are cleverly plotted, rich in historical ambience, and written with flair and a keen eye for detail. This time, the blind Sir John, a skilled investigator and respected magistrate, and his teenage protege, Jeremy Proctor, are drawn into a challenging case when a man claiming to be Lawrence Paltrow, heir to a vast fortune and the family title, mysteriously reappears after being missing for nearly a decade. The man looks and acts enough like Paltrow to convince Paltrow's old acquaintances and even his mother that he's who he says he is, but Sir John senses something amiss. His brilliant deductive powers and meticulous investigative techniques unearth a cunning plot motivated by avarice, jealousy, and ambition. A mesmerizing tale certain to delight all historical-mystery lovers. Emily Melton

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Product Details

  • Series: Sir John Fielding Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (September 13, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399145648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399145643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,597,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By booknblueslady on November 4, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Death of a Colonial by Bruce Alexander brings to life an interesting historical period. Sir John Fielding a blind magistrate in London helped to develop the Bow Street Runners, the first professional police organization in England . Sir John, the brother of Henry Fielding was a famed and gifted magistrate who compensated for his lack of sight by developing other skills. It is said that he never forgot a voice and could recognize a criminal by his voice alone.
Sixteen year old Jeremy Proctor assists Fielding in this pursuit of justice in Death of a Colonial. Fielding is commissioned to ascertain the validity of the claim of a fortune by Lawrence Paltrow the brother of an executed murderer, Arthur Paltrow. Arthur had been a wealthy man when he was executed and it was thought that there were no heirs to his estate. Together Jeremy and Fielding travel to Bath to meet the man's mother. It is at this point that the plot thickens. Jeremy and Fielding work together as a formidable team in discovering the conspirators.
Death of a colonial is rich in description of the feeling and times of England from Bath to London to Oxford. The reader is intrigued by Fieldings and Jeremy's journey through England and is ready to assist them in their search for criminals. The characters in the book are well developed and entertaining.
This is an entertaining book for those who love historical mysteries. Those who want fast paced action may wish to avoid this book
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In 1771, London Magistrate Sir John Fielding's sentencing led to the execution of Arthur Paltrow. Since Arthur was the last claimant to the Laningham title, the monarchy claims ownership of the entire estate including the deceased,s personal fortune. However, there remains some controversy since Arthur's death occurred before the House of Lords officially recognized him as Lord Laningham. Adding to the question of ownership is the fact that a person has stepped forward to claim the entire estate by insisting he is Arthur's younger brother Lawrence, who vanished seven years ago.

Sir Patrick Spenser, solicitor to King George III, has assembled a committee to substantiate Lawrence's claim. John and his assistant Jeremy Proctor tries to prove that Arthur's mother lies when she insists Lawrence is her other son just returning from the colonies. However, neither John nor Jeremy expected their inquiry would soon have them investigating the murder of Arthur's mother.

DEATH OF A COLONIAL is an interesting entry in one of the better historical mystery series of the nineties. The entertaining story line centers on the legality of Lawrence's claim leading to murder (past and present), but the plot pales when compared to some of Bruce Alexander,s previous tales. John keeps his aristocratic charm and Jeremy, who narrates the events, retains his energy and enthusiasm. The tours of pre Regency Bath and Oxford provide an authentic feel to an enjoyable novel that sub-genre fans will gain pleasure from reading.

Harriet Klausner
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have read each of the Sir John Fielding mystery books. I enjoy them all. I don't worry too much about subplots, but enjoy a mystery. This book allowed me to know to much too soon, but overall it is a good book. If you didn't like his earlier ones you won't like this one. If you have liked them, then you will enjoy this one.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. L Sadler VINE VOICE on January 20, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I get a huge kick out of Bruce Alexander's mysteries involving a blind judge and his young sidekick. I've read a lot of history from that time period, and though Alexander doesn't overload the books with a lot of rather...well putrid facts concerning life at that time, he gives enough information to make a picture in the mind of a world very different from ours.
If readers have ever spent time in England, as I have, most know that the trip to Bath is a quick one for us. Yet Alexander brings up how grueling those trips were via stagecoach (or any type of coach). I think we forget how much we take for granted in being able to hop in a car and go somewhere in relative comfort and safety.
Alexander's best work are the characters he draws. I would be hesitant to accept a blind man as getting to a level in legal circles to wind up as a judge, except that I have an author-friend who wrote Silence of the Spheres about deaf people who managed to become scientists. Knowing that deafness was less acceptable then blindness, makes it more likely that the possibility exists for someone with visual impairments would make it.
Alexander's Sir Fielding is just a hair like Sherlock Holmes, only his blindness makes him more sensitive to sound and tactile sensations. This attribute helps him in his sleuthing endeavors...I totally understand this as blind friends have those same abilities, just as my vision and attention to visual details is more acute because I am deaf. This has been proven true for both blind and deaf persons in recent MRI scans by neuroscientists...so the author is not taking liberties with his character. His plots are less well developed, and as one reviewer said, the plots tends not to be the fast-paced one usually seen in modern mysteries.
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