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Death at Rottingdean Mass Market Paperback – 1999
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The first book in the series, Death at Bishop's Keep, set up our characters: American Kate, who writes mysteries under the pseudonym Beryl Bardwell, and Lord Charles Sheridan, who is fascinated by newfangled forensic science (wow, fingerprints!) and a rather serious photographer. It's obvious from the first that they're meant to be together. By this point, in book 5, Charles has inherited the family estate and responsibilities, and the couple is exhausted by London. So they take a holiday in the seaside town of Rottingdean... where NATURALLY there is a dead body, and NATURALLY (with an entirely plausible reason) Charles and Kate must discover whodunnit. Our real-life characters are Rudyard Kipling and his family, including Aunt Georgina Burne-Jones (an independently-minded woman and active socialist, tied to the William Morris school).
I liked Death at Rottingdean. I like all these characters. I didn't make the right guesses in regard to the mystery, which is always a good sign, too. Especially, I appreciate the historical detail -- even when it isn't pretty. We get a glimpse at the uncomfortable bits of Victorian life, for instance, when the dead man's widow learns she must leave her home; Aunt Georgie's socialist suggestions seem harsh even though the character is well-meaning. It's a reminder that not all of Victorian life is silk dresses and upper-class holidays.
Somehow, this book wasn't quite as page-turning as earlier books in the series. Maybe it's because I'm less familiar with Kipling-the-person than I was with Beatrix Potter (in Death at Daisy's Folly); it might be my own distractions (how DARE my real life interfere with my reading?!). I liked the book; I didn't swoon over it. That won't stop me from grabbing the next book in the series, though, because I absolutely want to know what derring-do Charles and Kate take on next.
Although I usually have some difficulty divining the culprit because of the abundance of red herrings that twist through the plots of these works, I was already well on the culprit's trail this time. Knowing--or at least suspecting--the guilty party in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the work, however. As with any well crafted panopoly of characters and colorful settings, the "visit" is what makes the whole work worth while.