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    Review of SNOBBERY WITH VIOLENCE by Marion Chesney


    St. Martin's Minotaur, July 2003

    Returned from the wars in Africa, Captain Harry Cathcart has retired to his (low-cost) club and is well behind on paying his friend and acting-gentleman's gentleman when he gets a strange request. The Earl of Hadshire is concerned that a young man has been paying court on his daughter, Lady Rose, yet no proposal has been forthcoming. Can Cathcart investigate and determine if the young man is all he seems? With this job, Cathcart launches into a career of helping hapless British aristocrats recover from social embarassment, blackmail, and other consequences of their foolish acts. For Lady Rose, however, the consequences are tragic--thanks to her impetuous announcement, everyone knows that the young man was tampering with her affections--and Lady Rose, not the young man, suffers a destroyed reputation.

    A beautiful woman with a shady reputation becomes a target for any playboy and Edwardian England (the novel is set in 1907) has plenty of playboys. Cathcart is called in to head off embarrasment again--but even Cathcart draws the line at covering up murder. And when Lady Rose is invited to a house party in the country, deaths and disappearances start to happen too quickly to be called anything else--except by the local aristocrats who are willing to use all their powers to cover up anything that might stink of such commonness as murder.

    Author Marion Chesney (see reviews of Chesney novels written under the name M. C. Beaton) creates a charming tale that combines romantic tension (Lady Rose and Cathcart are attracted but in denial), mystery, and a look at a historical era where the British aristocracy cling to the vestiges of their Regency glories even as the rest of the world heads toward modernism and world war. Cathcart makes a fine romantic hero as well as an intriguing sleuth with Lady Rose available to provide impetuous advice and push him to extremes. Lady Rose, with her ambitions to become middle-class, support for woman's sufferage, and contempt for corsets, lives in an era where such beliefs are just possible--and is punished just as society would punish such an outrage--by being put on the shelf. Cathcart's servant and Rose's maid provide a secondary romantic interest as well as humor. I also appreciated the bolshevick police sergeant.

    Chesney's writing draws the reader in, lets us share the romance but also the disgrace of Edwardian aristocracy, and propells a fine mystery through to its conclusions. I would be surprised if we don't see more of Lady Rose and Captain Cathcart--and look forward to the next installment.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 8/13/03

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