What drew me to request The Firebird’s Feather: A Late-Edwardian Mystery? To start with, the cover, this awesome cover. LOVE the hat, the jewelry, that hint of the dress. Having the hat pulled down over her eyes adds to the “mystery” theme. WHAT is going on in this woman’s mind? What was she up to? Second, “Late-Edwardian” basically means the period right before George V’s coronation, so 1911. A wee little bit before the beginning of Downton Abbey, for those interested; think Mary Poppins. The question is, did the book live up to its cover?
THE PLOT: Lydia Challoner was born in Russia, emigrated to England with her father, and married into London society. Her daughter, Kitty, is about to debut in society, but Lydia is shockingly murdered while riding in Hyde Park. Who could have killed her, and why? Her husband Louis, Kitty’s father, is acting suspiciously, and his gun is missing. Kitty’s aunt Ursula is a society matron, and her two children (Kitty’s cousins) are both rebels: son Jonathan runs a socialist newspaper, while daughter Bridget is a burgeoning suffragette. Could the socialists or suffragettes have had anything to do with the murder? Are the socialists tied into Lydia’s Russian ancestry? What about Bridget’s friendship with Kitty’s maid? Louis’s business partner, Paul Estrabon, is a slimy character, and his wife, Fanny, was Lydia’s best friend and gambling partner. Do gambling debts factor into the murder? Finally, Lydia had a boy toy named Marcus. What’s his deal? What is he really after? Is the upcoming coronation of George V involved? Detective Chief Inspector Gaines and Detective Sergeant Inskip investigate the various suspects and their motives.
MY TWO CENTS: The introduction quickly pulled me in, but I was somewhat jarred with the way the murder was handled. Chapter Two ends with Lydia being late to lunch and her family wondering where she is. Chapter Three begins with Kitty already trying to accept that her mother has been murdered. So readers do not see the murder, nor do they see the family receiving the news of the murder. That just seemed very odd to me. It definitely pulled me out of the reading experience, and I felt like I had to adjust my mindset significantly to continue from that point.
Another thing you may notice from my summary is that there are a lot of characters. Family members, friends, friends of friends, people who aren’t friends. The strange thing is, there isn’t a lot of interaction among these various characters. For example, Aunt Ursula seems to act as a link between Kitty and her cousins because Kitty interacts more with Ursula than she does with either Jon or Bridget. Louis interacts more with the detectives than he does with his daughter. I felt that Kitty was fairly isolated as a character, and her main interaction ended up being with Marcus. And then, although Kitty is the main character, she really wasn’t even part of the climax.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting, readable, and different story, but it doesn’t exactly gel together completely for me. I would have preferred more character development and interaction to add depth to a good story framework.
TEACUP RATING: I give it around three-and-a-half out of five teacups. If you enjoy mysteries or are interested in the time period, give this one a try.
ON SALE DATE: The Firebird’s Feather will be available in hardcover on December 1, 2014.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.