Monday 13 November 2023

Murder In Drury Lane by Vanessa Riley (The Lady Worthing Mysteries Book 2) (2023)


Offering “a vibrant picture of the roles Black and mixed‑race people played in Regency life” (Publishers Weekly), this unique historical mystery series, featuring a mixed-race heroine with a notorious past, will appeal to Bridgerton fans who want a sharper edge to their drama.

Pressed into a union of convenience, Lady Abigail Worthing knew better than to expect love. Her marriage to an absent lord does at least provide some comforts, including a box at the Drury Lane theater, owned by the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Abigail has always found respite at the theater, away from the 
ton’s judgmental stares and the risks of her own secret work to help the cause of abolition—and her fears that someone from her past wants her permanently silenced. But on one particular June evening everything collides, and the performance takes an unwelcome turn . . .
Onstage, a woman emits a scream of genuine terror. A man has been found dead in the prop room, stabbed through the heart. Abigail’s neighbor, Stapleton Henderson, is also in attendance, and the two rush backstage. The magistrate, keen to avoid bringing more attention to the case and making Lady Worthing more of a target, asks Abigail not to investigate. But she cannot resist, especially when the usually curmudgeonly Henderson offers his assistance.
Abigail soon discovers a tangled drama that rivals anything brought to the stage, involving gambling debts, a beautiful actress with a parade of suitors, and the very future of the Drury Lane theatre. For Abigail the case is complicated still further, for one suspect is a leading advocate for the cause dearest to her heart—the abolition of slavery within the British empire. Uncovering the truth always comes at a price. But this time, it may be far higher than she wishes to pay.

Murder in Drury Lane is a very engaging murder mystery with a cast of characters who are adventurous and daring. Abigail is confident and self-assured and I admired her ability to go from one dangerous situation to another confronting suspects and possible killers. I enjoyed her friendship with her next-door neighbour and I am intrigued to see how things will develop there seeing as she is already married.
It is always interesting to see the political backdrop other than the Napoleonic Wars written into the plot. The abolition of slavery within the British Empire made a new and thought-provoking change.
There are quite a lot of characters and suspects to grapple with but there is a list at the beginning of some of the chapters where the names are crossed off as Abigail makes progress in her investigations.
I haven't read the first book yet but there seems to be quite a lot of backstory that I missed and I found it difficult in the early chapters to connect with well-established characters. They all had long-winded awkward names which added to the confusion. However, the mystery soon took over and I found myself immersed in the theatre world of Drury Lane, the murders that took place there and the subsequent investigation by Abigail and her neighbour, Stapleton Henderson.

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