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A Murder at Rosamund's Gate: A Mystery (Lucy Campion Mysteries Book 1) by [Susanna Calkins]

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A Murder at Rosamund's Gate: A Mystery (Lucy Campion Mysteries Book 1) Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 100 ratings
Book 1 of 4: Lucy Campion Mysteries

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A serving girl in a London magistrate’s home during the Restoration is in a perfect position to guide readers through this ­luxury-loving and plague-ridden world. Such a servant could move from withdrawing room to servants’ quarters to the Covent Garden market, witnessing and overhearing a great deal. Calkins takes full advantage of this access in her debut novel, which focuses on the period just before (and including) the Great Fire of London. Heroine Lucy Campion is resourceful and quick-witted. The household she works in, top to bottom, is filled with the news that the bodies of two serving girls have been discovered in fields outside London. Then, Lucy’s chambermaid roommate, Bessie, is found murdered in the same vicious way as the other girls. Lucy’s brother, often seen with Bessie, is the main suspect. Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the real killer entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax with London in flames. This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London. --Connie Fletcher --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

A great pounding at the door startled the chambermaid bending to light the morning hearth. Jerking upright, Lucy Campion swore softly as a bit of hot beeswax stung her wrist. Slapping the taper on the mantel, she sneaked a glance over her shoulder. She could hear Bessie and Cook rattling pots in the kitchen, but the rest of the magistrate’s household was still. Her muttered oath had not carried. Though theirs was not a stringent Puritan family, the magistrate frowned on ill language, and Lucy always took care not to annoy him.

Lucy was feeling out of sorts, though, having been awakened an hour too early—not to the usual sound of roosters crowing but instead to their frantic squealing. Local boys had been casting stones at the witless birds, all mercilessly shackled to wooden stakes on the street outside her window. Although the Church officially did not condone such activities, the community accepted that boys would have their fun. Fortunately only the servants, light sleepers that they all were, had been awakened by the disturbance. The rest of the household, the magistrate’s family, had slept blissfully on.

Now, tugging her skirts into place, Lucy moved across the long wooden floor into the great hall. Who could be calling? Deliveries from the haberdasher or the vintner usually were made at the kitchen entrance, and no decent visitor would call before the family had broken their morning fast.

As Lucy swung open the heavy oak door, her scolding words withered on her lips. Instead of a journeyman plying his trade, a straight-backed man in uniform regarded her sternly. Lucy recognized his red coat and insignia immediately. He was one of King Charles’s own men. Although Redcoats were a common enough sight throughout London, a soldier at the stoop, even at the magistrate’s household, disquieted her. Ever since she was a child, soldiers had filled her with unease.

He spoke without preamble. “I’m Duncan, the new constable. I must speak with the magistrate at once.”

Youthful mischief, no doubt. The boys had probably caused some damage with their early-morning antics. Lucy took a deep breath. “Of course, sir. I’ll fetch my master. Pray, warm yourself by the fire.”

Inside, Lucy saw the constable’s otherwise set face twitch in appreciation. The magistrate’s home was fine enough, it was true. The place was not quite so decorated as some, for the master had a mean practical streak and would not let his wife furnish as lavishly as she would like. Still, it had a pleasing elegance that well suited the master and his family. The house had three floors, with the living quarters on the first floor, the sleeping chambers on the second, and the maids’ cramped quarters on the very top floor. John, the master’s servant, slept with Cook, his wife, in the tiny niche behind the kitchen hearth, among the potatoes and onions. How they fit, Lucy had often wondered, as John was a great burly man and Cook an ample woman herself.

Even as she turned to locate John, the master himself appeared. He could have been in full magisterial garb instead of a simple sleeping gown, so dignified was his bearing. This morning, the habitual twinkling of his eye and rueful grin were missing, replaced by the slightest of frowns. He summoned the constable to his private chamber, and they disappeared down the hallway.

Bessie came from the kitchen then, her blue eyes wide, having passed the constable in the corridor. Like Lucy, she had been awake for some time, tending to the early-morning duties of the household.

Two years older than Lucy, Bessie was a farm girl from Lambeth hired by the master at a Michaelmas hiring fair some five years back. Before coming to the Hargraves, Bessie had been a nursery maid in a “family of quality,” tending to three small children. As she had confided to Lucy once, however, the master grabbed at her more than the tots did, and she was nearly thrown out when the mistress discovered her husband’s sneaking ways. She was in that household two years before ending her contract with the family. Bessie had quickly found the Hargraves’ household to her liking, just as Lucy did later. Master Hargrave paid well, son and father treated her courteously, and the mistress was not jealous of her pleasing ways.

Now Bessie giggled, revealing a large gap in her mouth where her tooth had cracked some years before. “So handsome, isn’t he?” she whispered. “I just love the gold on the constable’s red coat. I’ve never seen him before, though. Have you? I wonder where he came from.”

“I don’t know. Maybe Yorkshire?” Lucy guessed, for the soldier’s voice reminded her a bit of a distant cousin she had met once. But who could know? After King Charles was restored to the throne, he had dispersed many of his men throughout England, Ireland, and Wales, to help restore order. Likely as not, the soldier was far from his childhood home.

Cook soon swatted Bessie. “You’d best be getting to your chores and forget that constable. It’s not likely he brings good tidings at this hour,” she said, her pockmarked face growing impish. She winked at Lucy. “’Twould be best if you kept your mind on good honest boys like my Samuel.”

Bessie flounced off to tend to the mistress, her curls bouncing beneath her cap. Lucy hid a smile. Bessie despised Samuel, a stocky lad of fourteen years who as a child used to pull her curls with sticky fingers, and who now would pinch her rear when out of his mother’s sight. Thankfully, they saw him only rarely these days, for he had lately begun work as a fishmonger in Leadenhall.

Regarding the closed study door, Lucy wondered what business had brought the constable to the magistrate at such an hour. This was not altogether unusual, to be sure, since the magistrate often had constables and the like stopping by the household, but the grim set to this soldier’s jaw made her especially curious.

After a half hour, the constable left, and Lucy brought out the master’s breakfast to the dining room. There, the master downed his kippers and bread with a bit of wine, not lingering long, preferring to remain in his study until the noon meal. A member of the King’s Bench before the war, and a magistrate since Charles II’s return, he was beginning to write his memoirs when the assize courts were not in session. Lucy watched him closely. If he was bothered by the news Constable Duncan had brought, he hid it well.

*   *   *

Lucy’s curiosity about the stranger faded as she spent the next hour emptying chamber pots into the cesspit and shaking out rush mats on the stones outside the stoop. These heavy tasks numbed her fingers and made the sweat run down the back of her woolen dress. She had received the dress when she first entered service with the Hargraves two years before, when her dear mother had come down with consumption. When she bent over now, she realized anew how the dress was pulling across her front, although not as tightly as it had on Bessie, who had worn the dress before her.

Lucy was just starting to rub the pewter with marestail, a plant that smelled and turned her fingers green, when Cook called her into the kitchen. “Where’s your pocket?” she asked Lucy, taking down an old stone jar from an alcove above the cutting bench. “We’ve got guests for supper, and I need some ox tongue, coffee, and eggs from the market.” She counted out a few coins and handed them to Lucy.

“Don’t pay more than six shillings, you hear me?”

“Oh, yes!” Lucy said, dropping the coins carefully in the pocket she kept hidden beneath her skirts. The promise of the unexpected jaunt made her fairly dance down the front path, despite the chill in the air.

As she opened the gate, someone called to her from the doorway. “Hold on a moment, Lucy.” It was Adam, the magistrate’s son. “I’ll accompany you to market.”

“Sir?” she asked. She did not know the magistrate’s son very well. He’d been at Cambridge for the last few years and had only just returned to the household three weeks ago to finish up his studies in law at the Inns of Court. Unlike Sarah, the magistrate’s daughter, and Lucas, the magistrate’s ward, Adam always heeded the difference in their relative stations. He treated Lucy and the other servants courteously but never teased them in the playful way he did his sister and Lucas. Certainly he’d never volunteered to walk her into town.

“’Tis no day for a lass to be traveling alone.” He started down the narrow cobblestone path. Seeing that she was still standing there, he tilted his head at her. “Coming?”

“Yes, sir,” she said, scrambling to keep up with his lanky pace.

A moment later they passed the cocks Lucy had heard that morning. Now they were battered, plucked, and no longer squawking. Mercifully, the birds were all dead, and their youthful tormentors had long fled. Some of their neighbors were cutting them off the stakes to pop into their kettles. Adam frowned but didn’t say anything.

“Yoo-hoo, Lucy!” one of the neighbors called, elbowing another servant in the ribs. It was Janey, the most miserable gossip on the street. “Where are you off to?”

“Market,” Lucy responded through gritted teeth, trying not to flush at Janey’s knowing smirk. She’d already been treated to Janey’s vile opinions about what the gentry believed was their due. Seeing Lucy with the magistrate’s son would certainly fuel the morning’s gossip. Lucy shook her basket at her. “See?” With that, Lucy picked up her step, Adam matching her easily. Soon they were beyond sight of their neigh...
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN : B008RLTZBO
  • Publisher : Minotaur Books (April 23, 2013)
  • Publication date : April 23, 2013
  • Language : English
  • File size : 731 KB
  • Text-to-Speech : Enabled
  • Screen Reader : Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Print length : 351 pages
  • Lending : Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.8 out of 5 stars 100 ratings

Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5
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Top reviews from other countries

Delia
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first novel in a new series
Reviewed in Canada on June 19, 2013
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Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Susanna Calkins worth a second look
Reviewed in Canada on February 18, 2016
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Donna Lea Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Historical Mystery!
Reviewed in Canada on June 30, 2016
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MH
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing.
Reviewed in Canada on June 17, 2013
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