Sup with the Devil Paperback – Oct 4 2011
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Praise for the Abigail Adams Mystery novels...
“A captivating series for all historical fans.” —Library Journal
“An exciting new mystery series set in revolutionary Boston. Abigail Adams could become my favorite historical sleuth.”— Sharon Kay Penman
“Hamilton does a wonderful job combining history with mystery to create an enjoyable read for mystery fans and historical fiction fans alike.”—Fresh Fiction
"Fans will want to join the tea party hosted by Ms. Hamilton with guests being a who’s who of Colonial Massachusetts.”— The Mystery Gazette
“Barbara Hamilton plunges us into Colonial Boston where we walk beside the legendary Abigail Adams as she tries to find justice for a murdered young woman while also helping with the birthing pangs of a new nation.”— Victoria Thompson
"While bringing to life such historical figures as Sam Adams and Paul Revere, Hamilton transports the reader to another time and place with close attention to matters like dress, menus and the monumental task of doing laundry. Historical fans will eagerly look forward to the next in this promising series.”— Publishers Weekly
"Hamilton breathes vivid life into her historical characters through telling household details and finely honed dialogue. A satisfying read for mystery lovers and American history buffs alike."— Kirkus Reviews
“A super Revolutionary War-era…amateur sleuth."— Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Barbara Hamilton is a pseudonym for a prominent author of historical mysteries who lives in Los Angeles.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
George's servant Diomede is the convenient suspect, but Abigail believes in Diomede's innocence, and won`t give up until she finds the truth about the murder. She thinks George's murder may either related to his loyalist beliefs or to a mysterious woman who had asked her nephew to translate an Arabic letter referring to a hidden treasure. With the help of Horace and other friends, Abigail is determined to prevent an innocent man from being put to death for a crime he didn't commit.
I don't know a lot about the real Abigail Adams, but the fictional version is delightful. She is intelligent and knows how to convince others to take her opinions seriously, in spite of the limitations she faces as a woman in the 18th century. She is persistent, kind, fair, and has insights into the behavior of others that are right on target. All of these qualities make her a great amateur sleuth and a wonderful heroine.
The book is extremely well-written and extensively researched. At its best, the book's narrative makes the Revolutionary War era come alive. Abigail, a devoted wife and mother trying to balance a desire to contribute to society with her family obligations is relevant to today's reader. Her fear of war is conveyed realistically and can be applied to events going on in today's world. While Abigail is the main character, the appearances in the book by her husband John, John's cousin Samuel Adams, as well as Paul Revere and young "Johnny" Quincy Adams add to the book's appeal.
The plot of the book is interesting. I also like the peek into life at Harvard University in 1774 that are described when Abigail visits Horace. Horace is a likeable side-kick for Abigail's investigation, and I enjoy his intelligence, enthusiasm, and his dry wit. However, his penchant for speaking in Latin, which I'm sure is realistic for the times, grows tiresome for the modern reader. In fact, there is a time that even Abigail grows weary of this habit when she is trying to get important information from Horace and he responds with a Latin phrase:
"'Twas entirely by accident...Res hominum fragiles alit et regit---"
"Yes, yes, I know the fragile affairs of men are guided by chance," said Abigail impatiently. "Where did you see him?"
The Latin phrases, especially when they're not translated or the meaning isn't apparent from the context of the rest of the passage, interfere with the flow of the story. Also, some of the historical details, while important, slow the pace of the book making some portions drag. However, just when the story begins to get a bit dull, a dramatic event occurs which grabs the reader's attention and gets the book back on track. In addition to the murder investigation and search for the treasure, the book debates complex issues such as the rights of individuals vs. a greater cause. A thought-provoking quote from the book relates to Samuel Adams's interest in the possibility of a hidden treasure and what that could mean to the Sons of Liberty in their fight for freedom. It reminds Abigail of words spoken earlier in the book by another character, "...greed in a good cause was still greed."
One thing that is missing is an introduction or an afterward by the author. It is obvious Barbara Hamilton is extremely knowledgeable about Abigail Adams and the Revolutionary War. If she had shared a few facts to provide background and insights into the fictional events of the story, it would have provided an excellent supplement to the story.
Anyone who enjoys reading about Colonial times in America or likes the style of Stephanie Barron writing about a real-life historical figure as a fictional amateur detective will appreciate "Sup With the Devil." The book may even encourage some to follow up with some additional reading on Abigail Adams and her actual contributions to American history.
This review was originally written for The Season E-Zine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
My enjoyment of the previous two Abigail Adam's mysteries was mainly due to the nicely portrayed political tension--and yet personal respect--between Abigail and Lt. Coldstone as they worked to solve the mystery. But there is no Lt. Coldstone in this book. I also previously liked how Abigail was a part of everything and yet could view people as being real people instead of simply "us" and "them." Yet in this book, Abigail has gone from sympathy toward slaves to very anti-slavery with no explanation beyond the anti-slavery theme of the book. I was also surprised at Abigail's sudden change from troubled by Sam Adam's actions to practically vilifying him (and for fictional actions, too). I found this sudden change confusing.
The author also frequently combined two sentences into one in a disjointed way, which made Abigail come across as scatterbrained or distracted. There were sentences like, "Her mind returned to Johnny as she made ready for bed ("Now I've a clean hairbrush that I keep for those who're taken by circumstances unexpectedly...[and more chatter, presumably from the innkeeper])." or "While waiting for Mr. Metcalfe's reply--he had assured John of the occasion of their last meeting that 'any help I can be, to you or any of yours'--Abigail walked from the Golden Stair to the town jail, only to be told by Sheriff Congreve that Diomede, still half-stupefied, had slipped back into a heavy sleep."
However, as in the previous books, the vivid historical details about the everyday life and politics were skillfully woven into the story. The characters reacted realistically to the situations, and I always understood their motives. The mystery was an interesting clue-based puzzle. Whodunit was guessable, and I was absolutely certain who it was long before Abigail even considered the option.
There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of explicit bad language.
As Abigail investigates what happened to her nephew, someone murders another student George Fairfield who had remained loyal to King-George. Abigail expands her inquiry from the lost treasure to the homicide while The Sons of Liberty want the allegedly cursed gold as do loyalists, neutralists and avarice souls.
The latest Abigail Adams mystery (see The Ninth Daughter) is a great pre Revolutionary War whodunit that brings out the divisions between residents of Massachusetts as many oppose combat against the king. The investigation is clever as intelligent Abigail shows why she would one day be one of the more brilliant Fist Lady's. However, it is the historical tidbits, (like the oriental languages which include Russian, Persian, Arabic and biblical Aramaic, but not Chinese or Japanese) that anchors this great tale. Barbara Hamilton writes a delightful Abigail Adams tale one year after the tea.
Anyway, as usual John Adams is away and Abigail is asked for help by Horace, her nephew who is a student at Harvard. It's complicated----he was asked by this mysterious woman to translate a book in Arabic, but then he somehow is abandoned in a carriage on the outskirts of town. All of Abigail's queries take place in rooms at Harvard and other young men come into play. Soon one of them, a young man from the South, is murdered in his bed. Why? There are also books gone missing.
Abigail again is compelled to leave her family and go to the hinterlands to stay with a family that's connected with the books. More questions, more travelling, and in the midst of all of this her young son Charley goes missing.
I found this particular offering this time tedious and hard to follow. And Abigail is so preoccupied with trying to obtain justice for the slave of the murdered man, that she shirks her motherly duties. Her children are passed back and forth between friends and in the course of all this, takes her eyes off her son more than many times. Charley is always wandering off---he's only three years old. No one seems to be keeping an eye on him. But of course, these are Colonial times and everyone knows everybody else so I guess there is the assumption that a kind soul will find him and bring him back.
It just appears almost unrealistic that Abigail would be running off here and there when in those days there was so much to do in a household. Her husband John Adams was gone a lot in his duties as a lawyer and statesman. There were too many characters and too many plots going on in this book. I really preferred the earlier ones.