Rather than exacerbating that winter's gloom, a sudden freezing-over of London's Thames River in 1669 becomes a cause of public delight in Edward Marston's The Frost Fair
. "In place of a river, we have the widest street in Europe," exclaims architect Christopher Redmayne, as he observes the myriad merchants and entertainers who've mounted an eccentric celebration on the ice. But this revelry soon cools, after Redmayne and his sober-sided associate, Constable Jonathan Bale, discover a corpse trapped in the glacial crust. The deceased is Jeronimo Maldini, an Italian fencing master who was stabbed with a dagger belonging to none other than Redmayne's foppish, pleasure-seeking elder brother, Henry. Though once friendly, those two gents evolved into bitter foes, and Henry had rashly threatened to slay the duelist. Most Londoners, including Bale, are convinced of Henry's guilt, and the accused was too inebriated on the night of the murder to be sure of his own innocence. Christopher, however, is
sure, and so sets off to find the real killer--an errand that will find him nearly drowned in the Thames and crossing swords with a "hero" of dubious acclaim. Meanwhile, the designer detective must fend off the amorous advances of a new client and, not insignificantly, prevent Henry's suicide in squalid Newgate Prison.
Although The Frost Fair is actually the fourth of British author Marston's Redmayne/Bale novels, it's the first to see U.S. publication. Like its predecessors, this circuitously plotted work adroitly portrays the alternately respectable and ribald atmosphere of post-Great Fire London. Christopher Redmayne, who labors to restore his city in the shadow of real-life architect Christopher Wren, has matured into a credible sleuth, bedeviled by his sybaritic sibling but forging a relationship of grudging respect with the puritanical Bale. If the tone of this series isn't quite so jauntily whimsical as that of Marston's better-known Nicholas Bracewell books (The Bawdy Basket, etc.), The Frost Fair nonetheless proves itself an historical mystery with thrills on top of chills. --J. Kingston Pierce
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An unexpected blizzard paralyzes London and provides a chilling venue for murder in this Restoration-era mystery. After the storm subsides, the city remains at a standstill. Even the Thames is frozen, presenting Londoners with the unique opportunity of hosting a Frost Fair on the river. When the body of a well-known Italian fencing master is discovered beneath the ice, architect Christopher Redmayne and constable Jonathan Bale once again join forces to solve the crime. This time the investigation takes on a more personal tenor because Christopher's brother, Henry, is the primary suspect. Desperately trying to prove his brother's innocence and to protect Susan Cheever, his inquisitive love interest, from harm, the wily young architect-cum-detective has his capable hands full. Though he churns out volumes in the Nicholas Bracewell series, the Domesday Books, and the Redmayne Mysteries at an unbelievable pace, Marston continues to supply a superior brand of historical mystery. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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