I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton

For those who have enjoyed Sleepy Hollow and the AMC show Turn: Washington Spies, or just plain love a good mystery, this book is for you.  It is set in 1773, right before the Boston Tea Party.  Abigail Adams, wife of Sons of Liberty member and future President John Adams, goes to visit her friend, Rebecca Malvern only to stumble upon a rich woman cut up to death on her floor, with Rebecca no where in sight.  Careful not to disturb evidence, as John has taught her, she hunts around the house not only for clues but for Sons of Liberty work and sedition tracts that must not be seen by the Watch, who would convict Rebecca of treason when she is found.

Rebecca left her mean husband eighteen months ago after he repeatedly tried to lock her up and believed the lies his two children said about her abuse of them and her "papist" beliefs, even though she converted, which lost her her family.  She found a small place to stay where she did sewing and such for rent, while taking on teaching students and writing out a highly religious preacher from Essex County's sermons to be printed by Orion Hazlitt who also prints the Sons of Liberty tracts and takes care of his senile old mother with the help of a slow servant girl named Damnation.  Orion is in love with Rebecca, but both know that nothing will ever come of it because of his mother and the fact that she is still married, even though there are people in town who consider her a slut for living away from her husband.

After Abigail discovers the body, she calls Sam Adams and Paul Revere and they come over and search for a missing leger that has the list of all of their names in it and their aliases, which would cause them to be possibly hung for treason.  They destroy the crime scene in the process of cleaning it up.  Abigail goes to Mr. Malvern to see if he knows anything, but while angry as usual, he is as shocked as she and wants to find his wife.  When Abigail gets home, Lieutenant Coldstone and Sergeant Muldoon of the Crown, is there ready to arrest John for killing the woman because Rebecca was a legal client of his, and they believe, his mistress.  Abigail convinces them to let him go on a bond of $30.

Perdita Pentyre, wife of a tea merchant and mistress of a high ranking officer in the military and having possibly another secret lover, is the dead woman.  No one can find any evidence that Rebecca knew this woman.  Soon, Coldstone tells Abigail of the similar murders of two other women, one a whore, that no one bothered to look into, and the other a hair dresser who it turns out also worked as a healer.  He believes that the same person killed all three women.  Oddly enough there is over a year gap between the last victim and the current victim.  When Abigail goes to investigate the hair dresser's murder by talking to her neighbors, she discovered that men from the tavern would sometimes pound on her door at night when they were disappointed at not be successful at getting a whore at the bar.  One of these men, who also called her a witch, and is a deacon in the church, is a member of the Sons of Liberty.  He is currently in court over a land dispute with a relation of his Pentyre, whose wife was just murdered.  But he isn't the only one who wants that land.

With the help of Coldstone and Muldoon, Abigail goes out to hunt for Rebecca.  The last twenty to forty pages just flew by as Muldoon and Abigail go out alone to go rescue Rebecca, hoping that the messages she sent to her husband and the Sons of Liberty got to them and that help will arrive to save them too.  This was a fascinating look into the life of a colonial woman, who, while trying to prove her husband's innocence, must also spend time taking care of her children and the house, even though she does have one servant girl, whom she feels constantly guilty over for leaving so much work to do.  There's one point in the book where Abigail silently apologizes to Rebecca for not looking for her that day because the laundry is way overdue and must be done.  You also feel sorry for Abigail who must endure drinking nasty coffee when she'd rather be drinking tea, due to the tax.  I really loved this book, a first in a new series by the author of the Benjamin January books by Barbara Hambly, which are set during the time before the Civil War in New Orleans and feature freedman doctor Benjamin January who solves mysteries, are just as good.  I'm grabbing the next Abigail Adams mystery the next time I go to the library.


Well, we have it on the authority of Scripture that the Lord shall avenge the stripes of the righteous, and uphold the children against those who slander them…Though sometimes I wish Scripture were a little more specific about when, exactly, these events will take place.
---Barbara Hamilton (The Ninth Daughter p 95)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ninth-Daughter-Abigail-Adams-Mystery/dp/0425244636/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471009290&sr=1-1&keywords=the+ninth+daughter

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