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Deception's Daughter (Martha Beale Mysteries) [Hardcover]

Cordelia Frances Biddle

Price: 15.07 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it so much, I just got the third in the series! 13 Mar 2010
By C. Dietrich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The second in Biddle's series packs an even stronger emotional punch than the first. With several plotlines and finely nuanced characterizations, she kept me guessing to the end, and her deft depiction of the romantic relationship between Martha and Thomas Kelman added to the tension. This novel has it all: young love, hideous secrets, fearlessness, daring and revenge. Biddle's a writer to watch.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid Historical Mystery Suffers From too Many Loose Ends 6 Nov 2009
By Erimini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
First of all, I have to admit I stumbled across the second book of this series first and I have yet to read the first book.

And it is certainly readable and enjoyable when read out of order. Everything you need to know about the characters is mentioned when they are (re)introduced without getting hammered with the knowledge all at once, not an easy thing to do in a multiple book series.

The writing itself takes a bit of getting used to (since it is written in the third person present tense probably to enable the reader to get "inside the head" of different major characters.) But, it is well worth the effort since the author has a gift for evoking the period, and an eye for detail especially with the class diferences and the workings of the Philadelphia.

My major criticism with the book is that, although the major mystery (the disappearance of a young upper-class woman) is resolved, the book itself feels like there is no conclusion. Too many unrelated plotlines are mentioned and then dropped (presumably to be picked up in the next book.)

People are introduced, deeds hinted at, and then never really developed. They seem like they should be important, but they peter off into nothing and we're left with wondering why they were mentioned at all.

For instance, Martha (whom the series is named after, although she doesn't actually do much sleuthing herself) sees a young woman commit suicide early in the book (although she doesn't know later that's what the young woman has done.) The suicide mentioned numerous times, as is the fact that other people know who she is (though the authorities and the reader never find out.) The suicide is blond, like the missing girl. Do the keepers of the "poor house" (Blockley House) know who she is? Is it related to the missing girl? Or is the sole reason for the suicide's existence the introduction of the boy who reported her? In which case, why keep returning to her again and again without having something new to say about her?

Maybe if I had waited for book 3 to have been released, I would understand these seemingly extraneous elements and find them more acceptable. Perhaps, the first book is filled with similar dangling threads, I'll have to see.

So, while I enjoyed this book, I would recommend waiting to read it until the next one is available unless you don't mind that not everything in the book is related or resolved.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fans of Maisie Dobbs, take note 13 July 2009
By Debra Hamel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Deception's Daughter is the second book in Cordelia Frances Biddle's series of Martha Beale mysteries. Martha is an heiress living in mid-19th century Philadelphia. Her enviable financial situation has made her more than usually free to determine her own fate with respect to marriage. She has her sights on Thomas Kelman, an investigator working in conjunction with Philadelphia's mayor, despite that he's an unsuitable match for her by society's standards. In this outing Martha and Thomas must contend with a series of problems in addition to their romantic fumblings and misunderstandings--most seriously, the disappearance of the daughter of one of Philadelphia's leading families. The book takes readers from the well-appointed drawing rooms of Philadelphia's finest to the sorry confines of an almshouse to the city's lowest dives, where some of the aristocratic suspects in the girl's disappearance are wont to go slumming.

This is the first historical fiction I've read from Cordelia Biddle, but I doubt it will be my last. (Biddle is also the co-author, with her husband, of a series of crossword mysteries published under the pseudonym Nero Blanc.) Deception's Daughter offers a solid mystery, rich period detail, good writing, and likable characters who protest against but are ultimately hemmed in by the starchy confines of their times. On the negative side, there are a couple of chapters in which the tone of the book shifts subtly, when the author is describing a trip taken by the fiancé of the girl who's gone missing, which I found mildly distracting. Also, there is one passage in which Martha appears to have a prophetic dream, though this seems out of keeping with the rest of the narrative and isn't explained.

While the main mystery of Deception's Daughter is solved at the book's end, Martha's romantic life and smaller family-related problems are left unsettled, awaiting the next book in Biddle's series. I'll be happy to pick up the story when number three is released. Fans of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series may find the Martha Beale books to their taste.

-- Debra Hamel
5.0 out of 5 stars 1842 Philadelphia Society and Murder Make An Unsavory Connection. 7 Aug 2014
By D. R. Meredith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
The Martha Beale Mysteries are set in Philadelphia in 1842, and are serious rivals of historical mysteries written by British authors such as Anne Perry and Michael Jecks among others. Cordelia Frances Biddle creates pre-Civil War Philadelphia with all its sights, sounds, and smells. While many mansions remain from colonial days, there also crowded slums and poverty. The shouts of street vendors, wagons with iron clad wheels and horses plodding over cobblestone streets, the bellows and squeals of livestock going to slaughter provide a level of noise our modern ears would find uncomfortable. The smells of unwashed humanity, animal waste, and the sharp order from tanneries and slaughter houses bring tears to the eyes and leave a taste in one's mouth.

Side by side with the squalor are the luxurious homes of the wealthy. In one such home lives Martha Beale, wealthy heiress, who at twenty-six can be very nearly classified as a spinster. Most women of her age and station are already wives and mothers, but if Philadelphia society thinks badly of Martha's marital status, everyone is careful to remain quiet. Martha is, after all, very, very rich and with no father and no husband, is in total control of her fortune, She does find herself involved in murder rather more often than one expects of a lady in her social position. Actually, ladies of her class never find themselves in that position.

In fact, Martha Beale has behaved in other unconventional ways about which Philadelphia society must bite it's collective tongue to avoid vocally criticizing her. Martha has adopted Ella, an eleven-year-old child prostitute, although society is unaware of Ella's former status, and Cai, a young mixed blood Negro child. If adopting socially inferior children and her involvement in murder isn't enough to raise eyebrows. there is always Martha's association with Thomas Kelman, a criminal investigator with the Mayor's office, to provide grist for the rumor mill. Philadelphia society would be horrified if it knew that Martha and Thomas hold strong if unexpressed romantic feelings for one another. If they should, God forbid, marry, then even all of Martha's wealth might not prevent her ostracism from society.

In this second book of the series, Martha witnesses the abandonment of an infant and the suicide of its mother. The infant is saved by the actions of a group of boys from an orphanage led by twelve-year-old Findal Stokes. But who is the unfortunate mother and who fathered the child? How do the night time thefts committed with help of children fit into the picture, or do they? Then there is the question of young Theodora Crowther, daughter of a very wealthy Main Line family. Has she been kidnapped or has she eloped with her fiance? Are Martha and Thomas looking at one crime or two?

Ms. Biddle draws on historical facts and uses members of her own family as minor characters to re-create 1842 Philadelphia, and provides the reader with a first rate mystery. Anyone who loves historical mysteries will love this series.
4.0 out of 5 stars a couple things problematic 6 April 2014
By moderatelymoderate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Like the other reviewers, I enjoyed the period detail. And I have an idea about who the suicide [if she actually died] was [Think about the various children in the book.]. But I don't see how the main crime could have happened without anyone hearing it, what lead up to it, &/or what happened next.
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