Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The Mourning Bells by Christine Trent
This is another in the "A Lady of Ashes Mystery" series. In this story, Violet is riding the train with the dead. They are going to cemetery outside the London area, where there is more room for burial. She's totally shocked when a coffin bell gets rung. It's even more astounding when the man inside bolts off and won't talk to anyone. Who was he and how did he end up in a coffin if he was not dead?
Kensington Books sent me an ARC of this book for review (thank you). It is being published this month, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.
Violet has nothing to take to the police. So a man who was previously thought dead returns to life. How is that a crime? She's not content though. And when it happens the second time, she can't stand by and let it go. She starts questioning people. The more questions she asks, the more confusing it gets. She's getting threats on all sides. Her daughter even gets assaulted and she knows it's because she was wearing one of Violet's outfits.
I wasn't aware they had coffins with a bell on top that they tied the string for ringing it on the dead person's hand. If they resuscitated, they could ring the bell. They also made one that had a piece of glass in it so you could see the face and ensure they were dead. It all sounds pretty macabre to me, but they did nothing to preserve the body in that day. If you were comatose, you might not wake up until later. However, the bodies Violet saw appeared were not a recovery from that. It was almost like they'd been drugged.
The Inspector is no real help. He wouldn't pay much attention to her at all but she has a friend that he wants to date so he has to pretend to listen. Then his supervisor reminds him that she is a friend of the Queen and he suddenly gets more sincere about the case.
Violet has several suspects. When she finally figures out just what was going on, she almost dies by bracing the killer with no backup. She's a bit flighty that way.
I learned more about undertakers in the Victorian era, about coffins with safety devices, and about a financial change in the day. All that plus a bit of murder made the story interesting. I also find Violet and her family to be delightful characters. I'd read more in this series. Why don't you give it a try?