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1890s England

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Death at Bishop's Keep

A Victorian Mystery

by Robin Paige

This is the first in a series of ten books (soon to be eleven) created by the writing team of Susan Wittig Albert and her husband Bill Albert - using the name Robin Paige. In this story we are introduced to Kathryn Ardleigh, an unconventional American who has arrived in England to live in the country estate of her two maiden aunts. Kathryn’s intelligence and natural curiosity leads her to poke her nose into the murder investigation of a foreigner found at a nearby archaeological dig. In the process she meets amateur detective Sir Charles Sheridan. Romantic interest between these two opposite types slowly grows; later in the series they marry.

The series’ strength is its introduction of well know personalities such as Beatrix Potter, Conan Doyle, Jennie Churchill, her son Winston, and so forth. This mystery describes the 19th century spread of popular spiritualist movements, and the actress Mrs. Florence Farnsworth and Oscar Wilde.

At times overdone, however, is the authors’ stress on the restrictive social expectations placed on upper middle class women. Kathryn certainly does flaunt the normal Victorian-era bounds for women. But the reader is left to wonder how all those wonderfully independent, albeit sometimes eccentric, women, like Gertrude Bell, Mary Kingsley, Florence Nightingale, Josephine Butler, Millicent Fawcett or Isabella Bird Bishop, managed! Today there is considerable scholarship, and argument, on how narrowly circumscribed middle class women really were. For multiple views one might read books such as “Public Lives,” by Eleanor Gordon and Gwyneth Nair, or “Inside the Victorian Home,” by Judith Flanders.

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