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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sup With the Devil by Barbara Hamilton

This third Abigail Adams mystery is set against the tense times after the Boston Tea Party that winter.  It's May and the colonies are expecting a reply from the King any day now and it may just mean war, so the Sons of Liberty are stockpiling arms and making preparations.  Abigail receives an odd letter from her nephew, Horace, who is a freshman at Harvard and very astute in many languages, also serves as a "fag" (an underclassman who does odd jobs for an upperclassman) for George Fairfield, an upperclassman who is from Virginia and came with his, as he calls him, "gentlemanly" slave, Diomede.  Horace writes that a Mrs. Lake came with letters of recommendation from John and a judge and had her carriage take him out into the country to a deserted house to translate some Arabic papers.  Most of them are of a rather intimate recounting of an affair the pirate John Morgan had.

An old widow woman, whose ancestor was a pirate, found his old books and sold them off after the odd death of her husband.  She sold some Arabic books to Horace, some chemistry and astrology books to the Indian [yes, it took me a good third of the way into the book to discover he was a Native American] Weymouth, and over fifty to someone else.  It seems that her ancestor may have a treasure supply somewhere, perhaps where he lived in the forests when he stayed amongst the Indians for a while before coming to spend his last days with his son.

Mr. Ryland, the head of the hall where Fairfield and Horace live, puts it about that Horace ate something disagreeable, which wouldn't be suspicious since he has a delicate stomach and cannot even drink tea or eat wheat bread.  Mr. Ryland served under Fairfield in the King's Volunteers a while back.  Both of them, as are half of the county, are after the hand of a rich landowner's daughter.  Mr. Ryland, however, is at Harvard on a scholarship from the Governor of Massachusetts. 

On the day that Abigail arrives, she, Weymouth, Horace, George, and Diomede, go to the local tavern for dinner to discuss the situation.  The next morning, George is found stabbed to death, his slave Diomede, drunk, and drugged, with a bloody letter opener next to his body.  The two books that George bought from the widow are missing.  Abigail goes back to Boston with the rest of the books and hides them at Sam Adams' house because they may be of value to someone enough to kill.  Sam, of course, when he hears of the treasure, is less interested in helping to get Diomede cleared from murder and out of jail than he is the treasure that could buy gunpowder and weapons. 

As usual, Abigail worries, in the back of her mind about taking care of the home and leaving it all to their relative/servant girl.  She receives help from an unexpected source.  It turns out that George, married months before he died to a tavern owner's daughter, named Katy, who is pregnant, but really full of spirit and on the side of the colonists, even if her husband was a Loyalist.

Then tragedy strikes and Abigail begins to question her doing "men's work" and not staying at home and taking care of the kids, her husband, and the house.  She knows God made her do more than just be a mother and housewife, but by doing so, she has put her family in danger and all over something that may not be what the average person thinks of as treasure but is none-the-less quite priceless in its own way.

This book keeps you on pins and needles as the looming threat of the King's wrath sweeps into everything and the reality of war begins to hit the colonists, who are now realizing they are going to have to pick a side.  Also, you see a woman who is quite beyond her time.  If she would have been allowed, she would have aced her way through Harvard, and quite possibly become a lawyer like her husband, or something equally demanding of her high intellect.  Instead, she is forced to live in a world devalues women as only good for child rearing.  John, to his credit, never treats her this way, nor do the other members of the Sons of Liberty.  This is a trying mystery in that it is quite possible someone killed Fairfield not because of a bizarre treasure, but because of his leadership skills in the King's Volunteers that will be rather valuable in these trying times.  This is the last, so far, published mystery from this series.  I wait with baited breath for the next one.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sup-Devil-Abigail-Adams-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0052RGBGS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490788460&sr=8-1&keywords=sup+with+the+devil

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