Book Review: Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose (Four Stars)

Book Review: Murder on Black Swan Lane (Wrexford & Sloane #1) by Andrea Penrose (Four Stars)

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,” responded Tyler, his brows tweaking up in amusement. “You have to agree this has all the ingredients for a corking good play involving mystery, murder, and mayhem.”

Meticulously researched and imaginatively integrated details of science and culture of Regency London. Quill’s occupation and her need to maintain anonymity are great launching points. Excellent, if thoroughly modern, female lead.

“There is nothing simple about the truth. As Lord Byron said, it is but a lie in masquerade.” “Actually, he said it the other way around. But I like your version better. The punch is aimed more squarely at one’s vitals.”

Historical fiction is more difficult to write than a simple romance or murder mystery. Penrose, for example, has to recreate Regency London while her inspiration, Jane Austen, had only to write about what was going on about her. She even manages at least one verbal homage to her motivator. “It is a universally acknowledged truth that Love is never simple. Nor easy.”

How was it that some individuals believed they had the right to transcend their mortal powers to play God with the universe? No possible answer came to mind, save for that the temptation of Evil had been an elemental part of the human condition since the Garden of Eden.

Numerous anachronisms. “cut to the chase” (twice), “death warmed over,” and “the pen being mightier than the sword” (not penned until 1839) jar the attentive reader.  Modern intrusions break the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief and destroy the spell of the story. Reads more like late Victorian than Regency London.

“Lead into gold? Wasn’t that just an obscure medieval fantasy?” said Charlotte. “Surely it’s been dead for centuries, along with the mad monks who had created it.”

Monks had almost nothing to do with it. The author disregards the wall now separating medieval alchemy and modern chemistry was being erected at that time. By those men. She correctly notes that some of the medieval hocus pocus were the first sprouting of the modern, and that its practitioners encoded their research for both privacy and safety.

“To reach out and grasp the immortal beauty of genius requires taking a leap of faith.”