Death on the Sapphire
Death on the Sapphire introduces Lady Frances Ffolkes, a proto-feminist and suffragette in 1906. It’s the first in a new series by R.J. Koreto.
I liked the heroine more than the mystery. She struggles with the constraints on a “proper” lady in her time, but she still does what she wants — moving out of her brother’s house to live independently (accompanied by her ladies’ maid, Miss Mallow), handling her own finances (mostly an inheritance), and exploiting expectations of what well-bred women can and can’t do to solve the disappearance of a manuscript that proves a murder.
The underlying mystery has a bit too military conspiracy in it for me to really love it. Frances’ brother Charles, the Marquess of Seaforth, is a high-ranking diplomat. He and Daniel Colcombe had served together in the Boer War in South Africa. Daniel is now dead after having an “accident” while cleaning a revolver. Rumors speak of suicide, but Daniel’s sister refuses to believe it.
She asks for Charles and Frances’ help in finding a missing manuscript. Daniel was writing a memoir of a particular battle along the Sapphire River, where a number of men were unnecessarily killed because orders came down to follow traditional battle plans. The details of what really happened threaten to embarrass high-placed officers and peers, but after Daniel’s death, the book draft can’t be found.
The setup gives plenty of scenes with Frances and various personages in her society, which I enjoyed. There’s also a touch of romance. Frances has the potential to get involved with Henry Wheaton, family lawyer, or Lord Gareth, who runs with a fast crowd and attends shocking parties. The actual investigation of the mystery doesn’t allow for deduction — instead, Frances’ questions cause people to panic — and that aspect of the plot seemed a bit redundant at times in the telling.
The historical culture was more interesting to me than the military mystery, but I enjoyed spending time with Frances. Her background as a world traveler (she went to college in America) and determination are fun to read about. Her next adventure, Death Among Rubies, is due out this fall.