First Sentence: Steam rose from the marrow-bone pie until the old man's sharp beak of a nose wrinkled in delight.
Sir Robert Appleton is off to France on a mission for Queen Elizabeth. A letter he receives, shortly before his trip, tells of the death of John Bexwith, steward of Appleton Manor in Lancashire. As Bexwith was not old and was found dead face down in a marrow-bone pie, Lady Susanna Appleton, who is writing an herbal and knowledgeable of poisons, suspects his death to be unnatural. In spite of tales that a ghost haunts Appleton Manor, Susanna decides to unmask the ghost, find the killer and put the manor to rights.
I'd not read Emerson before. Two things, in particular, stand out with her writing; her characters and her research.
Lady Susanna is delightful. She is smart--highly educated for the time, practical--not given to superstition or fancy, and independent. She is certainly the most developed of the characters, yet the personalities of the other characters come through as well.
Ms. Emerson's research is apparent. The period is a fascinating one in which there, as Sir Robert puts it "...too many queens..." The offset of Susanna's activities by Robert's in France, provides a view of their relationship and of the time. The information on plants and herbs was fascinating but I also didn't realize that hair jewelry, memorializing the dead, dates back as far as the 16 century.
The story is well plotted with a good balance of suspense. There was, however, a fairly obvious hint as to the killer. What was lacking was a strong sense of time and place.
At times, I felt the story read as much more modern than the setting. This was mainly due to the language being quite modern. However, as the first in a series, I did enjoy it enough that I'm interested in reading the next book.
FACE DOWN IN THE MARROW-BONE PIE (Hist. Mys-Lady Susanna Appleton-England-1559) - G+
Emerson, Kathy Lynn - 1st in series
St. Martin's Press, 1997, US Hardcover - ISBN: 0312151233