"Engaging and elegantly constructed, Deadly Kin is a book it is difficult to put down"
Mystery / thriller
For anyone looking for a total immersion in the 18th century, Lucinda Brant’s novels are a great place to start. Ms Brant lives and breathes her period, her novels populated by men in pastel colours, in frock coats and lavishly embroidered waistcoats, while her leading ladies recline on elegantly upholstered furniture dressed in silk while sipping coffee from a saucer or tea from a cup. All of this luxury is elegantly contrasted with the darker aspects of her stories, whether it be torture and coup d’états or, as in this her latest, the consequences of the Black Act and the restrictive inheritance laws that governed England’s landed classes.
Deadly Kin has at its centre Alec Halsey and his wife, Selina. This is the fourth book about Alec, and over the previous books (all of them most warmly recommended) we have seen Alec develop from a bitter if successful man, a man who drowns his unhappiness in work and welcoming female arms, to a man recently elevated to the peerage and with a wife he dearly loves.
As an Alec fan, let me tell you I am utterly thrilled by his good fortune, although his having become an earl and thereby inherited a huge pile of a house in Kent is not necessarily something to congratulate him on. You see, with house and title come a lot of obligations—and the growing sensation that there is a very, very nasty family secret hidden among the ancient stones of the family home.
Mind you, there are several secrets floating about, starting with who was Alec’s real father. He was not raised on the Halsey estate; instead he was torn out of his mother’s arm after only one day and carried away from what should have been his inheritance by his uncle. There are murmurs about adultery, whispers that the countess who birthed Alec was carrying on an affair with a servant. But is it true? Alec has his suspicions and the whys behind this makes for a heart-wrenching story that Ms Brant reveals bit by bit.
When a young boy is found murdered on Halsey ground, when an illegal poaching business is revealed, when Alec realises that everyone—including his uncle, the man who raised him and protected him—is in cahoots to keep him in the dark about…something…his keen mind goes into overdrive and slowly he starts putting the pieces together. The completed puzzle is not pretty—at all.
Other than Alec and his heavily pregnant Selina, Deadly Kin presents us with a fascinating cast of characters. There is Alec’s unhinged (hmm) maternal aunt—and what a delicious harpy she is!—there is Alec’s OCD afflicted valet/secretary, there is Plantagenet Halsey (Alec’s uncle) Alec’s godmother who happens to be a Duchess and Selina’s delightfully depicted idiot of a brother. And that is only upstairs: downstairs teems with disgruntled stewards, a plethora of young people named Fisher and a bevy of servants.
Engaging and elegantly constructed, Deadly Kin is a book it is difficult to put down. My only gripe is Ms Brant’s propensity for head-hopping which at times I find quite distracting and utterly unnecessary for a writer of Ms Brant’s acumen. Despite this, I must congratulate Ms Brant on yet another marvellous read and hope the wait for the next book in the Alec Halsey series will not be as long as the wait for this instalment was!
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds© Anna Belfrage
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