The title: The Ninth Daughter
The authors: Barbara Hamilton
Publication: Berkley, 2009
Got it from: SC, Xmas 2011
Kicking off 2012 is a mystery that wasn't quite what I'd hoped, but was still an enjoyable read.
The Ninth Daughter features Abigail Adams as a sleuth, investigating the murder of a well-to-do woman in the home of her friend Rebecca, a former housemaid. Complicating matters is the fact that Rebecca is a secret member of the Sons of Liberty, the revolutionary group who are against the imposition of the English King. Even worse, her husband John is accused of the murder.
Hamilton wisely sets the action in the middle of pre-revolutionary Boston with a young Abigail rather than the later First Lady Abigail. The turbulent times makes for an excellent setting for a murder mystery, with divided loyalties and suspicion everywhere. Real historical characters like Samuel Adams and Paul Revere come to life on the pages, while some of the British soldiers are created as fully realized, nuanced characters who have noble sides despite being the "enemy." In fact, the realism really stands out in this book. You can almost smell 18th century Boston and feel like you are walking through its cramped streets and standing in its tiny kitchens. And it's gritty too - not just the murder(s), which are pretty brutal, but everything from the stench of the poor district to the bitter hardships of women's married lives.
I found the book difficult to get into, with so many characters and so much thrown at you in the beginning, but it is satisfying to see it come together in the end and know the author is making you think. I was hoping for more evidence of the witty and playful between John and Abigail, which was hinted at in almost the first page:
John - her beloved, self-important, irascible John, the hero of her heart, husband of her bosom, and occasional bane of her existence
What woman doesn't feel this way sometimes about her husband?
I would recommend this book, especially for learning about pre-Revolutionary Boston, but with the caveat that it's not a cozy mystery by any means, nor is it a light read that's easy to pick up and put down.