Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Murder in the Eternal City by Ashley Gardner

First Sentence: The first English Person I encountered as I wandered the vast city of Rome in February of 1820 was a man I already knew.

Captain Gabriel Lacey, and his loyal bodyguard Brewster, are in Rome with Lord Grenville. He has been commissioned by James Denis, criminal overlord of London, to obtain a small marble statue while he is there. In the process, he encounters a man he thought to be dead who asks for his help. Lacey is also asked to help prevent Conte Trevisan, an aristocrat, from ruining his daughter. Lacey is further tasked with discovering the murderer of Conte De Luca, the man who owns the statue Denis desires.

One is always a bit afraid that a series, by the 16th book, may become repetitive or stale. There is no fear of that with Gardner. Her books are very much character-driven, and what great characters they are. Their lives continue to develop and change with time. And what wonderful characters they are. One of the best things about Lacey is that he is not a superhero. He doesn’t win every fight or always comes to the correct conclusion. But he is surrounded by those who support him, and he’s willing to change his mind. Brewster, Lacey’s bodyguard, is a pleasure. More than simply muscle, he is intelligent, well-read, and clever.

Lord Grenville does play a role, albeit less than in some books, as does Lacey’s wife Donata, who appears later in the story. One appreciates that Gardner has avoided the trope of having the wife become actively involved in the investigation.

Gardner’s descriptions create a visual picture of place and time, even including the earthquakes which are common in Italy. She does an excellent job of switching from the gentility of the drawing room to the danger of the streets. Although most of the story is set in Rome, one is also taken to Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Napoli, bringing the locations to life and seamlessly incorporating their history. Art is an important element of the story, along with the rising popularity of opera, and the looting of ancient treasures. In fact, it is a piece of art that provides the final twist at the end.

MURDER IN THE ETERNAL CITY is a delightfully twisty book, where one never knows who can be trusted and people are not always what they seem. It is exciting and suspenseful, tempered by scenes of Lacey and his much-loved wife, Donata. One hopes this series will continue for many books to come.

MURDER IN THE ETERNAL CITY (HisMys-Captain Lacey-Italy-Regency/1800s)

Ashley Gardner - 16th book in the series
JA/AG Publishing, Sept 2022, 314 pp.

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