First Sentence: I woke, or seemed to.
Captain Gabriel Lacey's old enemy Colonel Hamilton Isherwood has been murdered. Isherwood's blood is on Lacey's clothes and cavalry saber in Lacey's hand, and there is a gap in his memory as to what happened. The one person who might know is Clement, a footman, and Isherwood's son asks for Lacey's help in identifying his father's killer. While trying put the pieces together, Gabriel learns of two Quakers who are missing and promises to make inquiries as to their whereabouts.
There's nothing like a good hook; an opening that captures your attention from the very beginning. Having the protagonist come to consciousness in the company of a dead body, a saber in this hand, and the victim's blood on his clothes accomplishes that goal. It's also nice that new readers need not worry about coming into the series with this 14th book. Gardner does a very good job of introducing each of the characters and establishing their relationships. She also incorporates the intimacy between Lacey and his wife Donata in a way that is lovely romantic and a bit sexy, but never detailed.
Gardner creates an excellent sense of place, inviting the reader into the environment in which the characters find themselves. Often, too, she provides bits of history and general information, such as about Quakers, never overwhelming the story, but enhancing it.
One likes to read of protagonists who have a strong moral and ethical base, who believe in doing what is just. Lacey is just such a character in spite of the urgings of others. At the same time, he is not perfect and does have a past, yet one of the best traits of Lacey is his humanity; his sense of responsibility. In other words, he is believable.
Gardner creates an assumption and immediately dispels it carrying one along in the investigation. Another aspect of Gardner's writing which draws one back to her books, is her voice; her dialogue and the subtle humor incorporated which is offset by an excellent accounting of grieving--"That was the trouble with death. I too had been brought up to believe we should rejoice that the one we loved was with the lord, but somehow I never could. I could feel only emptiness, the lessening of myself for the absence of that person."
DEATH AT BRIGHTON PAVILION: (HistMys-Cpt. Gabriel Lacey-Brighton, England) – G+
Gardner, Ashley - 14th in seriesJA/AG Publishing - Dec 2019