First Sentence: Ancient walls rose up against an indigo sky.
It's 1812 and the beginning of the industrial revolution but not everyone is embracing technology. Luddites and radicals fear these advances will be the end of independent craftspeople. In the town of Woolbridge, the Easter fair threatens to erupt in violence. One of the local judges brings in the military as a precaution. Jarrett, agent to the Duke of Penrith, must look to his young, visiting cousin, balance the attentions of two lovely ladies, and find out who murdered a man found laid out neatly in his bed.
We have been waiting a long time for this second book in Ms. Jenkins' series and I am so glad it is finally here. I was immediately reminded of the reasons why I enjoyed the first book "The Duke's Agent."
I value an author's ability to create a sense of place through written pictures..."This was land pared down to its primitive bones. ...an enchanted land that might flick them off into oblivion with a shiver of its crust." Now there's an image that can't help but stay with you. Jenkins brings the place, people, and story to dimensional life for the reader. This is enhanced by the excellent dialogue. Te speech is reflective of the period but not labored. The exchanges between the cousins, Raif and Charles, have the natural banter of those who are close. The young cousin, Favian, whom the older cousins refer to as "Grub," is convincing in idolization of his older cousins while stretching his newly-found independence.
There are quite a lot of characters in the story, some of whom were more fully developed than others and I occasionally had trouble remembering who was who. I often do wish more publishers would allow for a cast of characters. What I did particularly appreciate was that through a tragic story and bits of conversation, we learn much more of Raif's background and history. Raif and Charles are characters in whom I've become invested and about whom I definitely want to know more.
One element I found interesting was that, to me, the book has a feel of being very much a "man's" book, similar to the Patrick O'Brian books. This is not, at all, a criticism. The principal characters are all very much male, even with the female characters adding a romantic/sexual element. The series has a definite swashbuckler feel to it, even though it's on land. It may be due to the period in which it's set or the strength of the male characters, but I very much liked it.
The story has a very good plot with good twists, diversions and side threads. There is an excellent buildup of tension and a terrible release from it. The end was at points both poignant and highly satisfying with the door being left open for more to come. I do sincerely hope so although I also hope it's not another 13 years before we see Jarrett again. Please get writing, Ms. Jenkins, your readers are waiting.
DEATH OF A RADICAL (Hist Mys-Frederick Raif Jarrett-England-1813) - VG
Jenkins, Rebecca - 2nd in series
Quercus, ©2010, UK Trade Paperback - ISBN: 9781849162333