Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery) by Andrea Penrose

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Murder on Black Swan LaneMurder on Black Swan Lane is the debut book in a historical mystery series set in Regency England. The series brings together one of the most unusual pair of protagonists found in the mystery genre. The Earl of Wrexford is, besides a wealthy nobleman, a chemist. His soon to be counterpart is about as unusual as one can imagine. Charlotte Sloane is a poor widow making ends meet by masquerading as a political cartoonist under her late husband’s pen name A.J Quill. And readers here might ask what would bring people from such different world together? Fate I suppose, but really it is human nature, the cause of so many problems.

The Earl of Wrexford’s comfortable life allows him plenty of time to enjoy his interests, one of which is chemistry. Life should be good. His unseemly behavior combined with his fiery personality however brings trouble to his door. Such is the case when Reverend Joseph Holworthy, a local and rather overly pious man of the cloth decides to publicly call out the Earl on his sinful ways. The Earl responds and so the public back and forth between the two becomes a bit of entertainment for the public to follow. The widow Sloane, acting under her late husband’s pen name begins drawing cartoons lampooning the battling pair. But when the Reverend is found murdered in his church with chemical burns the fun is over. The Earl is in serious trouble. The Earl eventually discovers who the cartoonist really is, but rather than exposing her, he enlists her help in exposing the reverend’s shadowy activities involving pseudo science. The two team up and manage through science and intuition uncover the real murderer. And the team of Wrexford and Sloane is born.

This is an interesting series. The author is writing under a pseudonym but her works under her other pen names are not a secret. While she is known for her Regency romances, I believe this is her first foray into the mystery genre. Given that, I expected to be immersed into Regency England, treated to a romance and oh yeah, have a little murder solved along the way. That is not quite what this book is.

First, while there is a a hint of a potential romance down the road, there isn’t really any romance in this book at all.

Secondly, the book is set in Regency England, but for the most part I didn’t feel that. In fact, there were some turns of language that didn’t seem to fit the era at all. I sort of felt like the characters from the television series Elementary had time traveled back to Regency England. The one thing that did place it in it’s time period was the science. That I found to be quite interesting.

As for the mystery? If this is truly the author’s first book in the genre, she did a great job. It was well plotted, gave readers so clues to follow and was set up well with things wrapped up nicely in the end.

While the combination of these two as the protagonists may be a bit of a stretch, the characters are interesting and likable. The science element of the story adds an unusual interest point for me. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable beginning and look forward to the series continuing.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.