Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Revolutionary Boston - 1773


The Ninth Daughter

by Barbara Hamilton

This first book in Hamilton’s Abigail Adams series has the legendary wife of John Adams involved in the search for her best friend Rebecca, missing after a young lady of means was found violently murdered in her home. Rebecca, a secret Daughter of Liberty, handled communication between the Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence in other colonies. Missing with her is a ledger which held the names of revolutionary spies in the British camp as well as the ciphers used to communicate with them.

The story highlights some of the major events and famous personalities of this busy port town. Boston may be under occupation by British troops due to the colony’s fight over the mother country’s stringent trade regulations, but the streets seem controlled by Boston’s volatile mobs, augmented by folks from the country rushing in to “hammer down Tory doors.” John and Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Dr. Warren, and John Hancock appear as writers of “seditious” pamphlets and as plotters at endless gatherings at the Old South Meeting-House. The story ends as “Indians” board three tea ships to dump some $900,000 worth of East India Company tea into the Boston Harbor.

Life within Boston’s tangled alleyways, taverns, small shops, and tenements, and within the mansions of its prosperous merchants, is nicely illuminated. Abigail’s daily household tasks as a mother of growing children are described, as is the hard scrabble life of farm women, viewed by Abigail during a brief foray to a hamlet outside of Boston.

The status of the New England wife under “contract” to her husband, and the influence of divergent religious beliefs on women’s lives both play central roles. On the one hand, Abigail’s daily references to Biblical passages help inform her life. On the other, the pernicious hold on an ignorant country congregation by a “Great Awakening” Evangelical preacher, and the easy labeling of women as serpents, or witches in league with the devil, bring fear and even death to some unfortunate women.



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