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    Review of PETTY TREASON by Madeleine E. Robins

    A SARAH TOLERANCE MYSTERY

    Forge, August 2004

    Fallen woman Sarah Tolerance makes her living as an investigator and it's no huge surprise when an anxious brother contacts her to investigate his brother-in-law's murder. Not that anyone really regrets the death of the French emigre who tortured his wife and others, spent more money than he made, and spent his time in dangerous company. Finding the killer soon takes second place to keeping the victim's widow, Anne d'Aubigny, from the pursuit of English Law--law that was especially vigilent against that most horrible of crimes--a wife's murder of her husband.

    Sarah's investigation soon puts her in harm's way--she is attacked in the street, as is one of her witnesses. Undeterred by the attacks, she continues her search and finds a second mystery--the victim had recently found himself with some level of wealth--without any apparent source. The more Sarah looks, the more it appears that there are layers of complexity hidden, that the d'Aubigny murder is only a part of a plot that might threaten England itself--at a time when every resource is stretched to support the ongoing war against the French and Napoleon.

    Author Madeleine E. Robins provides a fascinating look at Regency-era England, diving below the manners and misunderstandings of most Regency writings to examine how a woman might make her way in a time when sexism was viewed as natural and when a woman without a man's protection was seen as fair game. Robins' strong writing engages the reader and draws us into a mystery that continues to reveal new depths--leading from a simple murder to possible treason against the nation itself. The sharp twist at the end left me, at least, nodding with appreciation.

    I look forward to reading more mysteries by Robins.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/03/05

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