Two months after being cleared of murdering her husband, Lady Fieldhurst goes to visit friends in the country in Yorkshire to get away from the heat of a London summer and the gossip of London over the murder scandal in A Dead Bore by Sheri Cobb South, set in 1815. Staying with Sir Gerald and Lady Anne Hollingshead, Lady Fieldhurst joins their dinner with the local vicar, Cyril Danvers, who bores everyone with his constant talk about a local history book he has been writing for years and which all but the viscountess have heard about ad nauseum ever since. With a serious storm about to brew, the vicar leaves early to be able to cross the bridge to his side of the village before the storm hits.
After everyone disperses, Lady Fieldhurst overhears a conversation between Emma Hollingshead, the oldest daughter of the family, and Colin Merryweather, the curate. The two have long wanted to marry, but Emma’s parents have opposed the marriage because of Mr. Merryweather’s low social station and lack of a fortune. The couple privately (or so they imagine) discuss their prospects, and Mr. Merryweather says he has a plan for getting a position as a vicar, which would give him enough earnings to support the pair in marriage. Lady Fieldhurst recalls this conversation when the news comes that the vicarage is on fire, and people discover the vicar dead.
Suspicious that this death did not result from the fire itself, Lady Fieldhurst writes to the man who saved her life a mere two months earlier, Mr. John Pickett. Asking him to come to Yorkshire to investigate, Lady Fieldhurst specifies that he must come incognito because a Bow Street Runner would stand out among the people of their village. Pickett, in love with Lady Fieldhurst, eagerly accepts the commission and shows up in the borrowed livery of Thomas, the viscountess’ footman, having been trained by Thomas and having to powder his hair, a really tricky task.
Investigating the case, Pickett soon determines that the vicar was murdered with a blow to his head before the vicarage burned to the ground. He thus works to look into the case, but doing so undercover. He finds his job rather tricky when the youngest daughter, 14-year-old Susanna, shows herself as having a major crush on Pickett, following him as much as she can.
I found A Dead Bore to be an excellent book. I loved the first book in the series, In Milady’s Chamber, and appreciate the plot and flavor of each book in the series. The plot has some clever points to it, with Pickett’s unearthing interesting points about the vicar to look further into. However, he has to do all this in secret, so no one will know he is really a Bow Street Runner.
The characters in this book come alive, in particular Pickett and Lady Fieldhurst. We know how much Pickett loves the viscountess and see his struggle to remain proper towards her and realize that the woman of his dreams is out of reach of him because they come from such widely different classes. In the meantime, Pickett must work with the lady in order to uncover a murderer, making things all the more complicated for him. Lady Fieldhurst, meanwhile, if possible, is an even more complex character, as we see that she is falling for Pickett without realizing that is what she is doing. The tug and pull of their relationship adds to the drama of the book.
A Dead Bore is set in the early 19th century, but I would have liked to see more historical details to the book. It still had points of historical interest, but most of the book I didn’t particularly notice that I was listening to a historical novel. So I would have liked further details about the era.
The audiobook is performed by Joel Froomkin, who does an excellent job of bringing the book to life. A good narrator still does best when presented with good material, which helps Froomkin to do a good job. His voice is well-suited to the historical period, and he uses strong expressions to make the book even more exciting.
I highly enjoyed A Dead Bore, which held my attention throughout the course of the book. I felt strong affinity for the characters and their situations and was strongly drawn to the whole book. I’ve already bought the next book in the series and look forward to listening to that. I give this book five stars.
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