Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review: The Ninth Daughter

The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton (Berkley, 2009) is the first in a new series of mysteries featuring real-life Patriot Abigail Adams. The setting for this installment is Boston, in the weeks leading up to the Boston Tea Party. With this historical event as a backdrop, Hamilton weaves a fictional tale of murder and conspiracy. Some real-life Patriots take on supporting roles: there is, of course, Abigail's own husband John, the future President. Little Johnny will grow up to be President as well. Sam Adams, Paul Revere and Dr. Warren all put in appearances in relatively minor parts. The other main characters, as well as the crimes themselves, are fictional.

My ambivalence to real-life persons being fictionalized into something they weren't, wasn't assuaged by this tale. The tale could have been told had the heroine not been the future First Lady. There is something, well, assuming about placing thoughts into the heads and actions into the lives of the long-deceased. But, it is what it is.

The story opens with the discovery of the corpse. The length, breadth and detail of the description of the crime and the scene left me a bit queasy. It calls into question whether this tale could be categorized as a "cozy" mystery at all. Cozies are supposed to be absent any extraneous gorey details. I always references Dame Agatha herself in all matters relating to proper taste in such matters.  What would she think of it?

Once past the unpleasant beginnings the tale moves along with interest. Hamilton has done a fine job of describing the realities of occupied Boston. There is much tension between the British and the Loyalists who support the King, and the Patriots who disagree with His Majesty on matters of governance and taxation. Slavery also finds a theme in this tale, as Abigail interacts with three different African slaves while unraveling this mystery.

Some of Abigail's actions are improbable, but serve to make the story enjoyable and the plot moving along. I've taken them with a grain of salt, in the spirit that the heroine must really do something in a tale like this. Whether a woman in Abigail's position in colonial Boston would actually be able to take some of the actions she did is another matter.

There were many food references, starting in Chapter Six, to make one's mouth water. Since the setting was late November, much of the fare is autumn food. I have gleaned some interesting recipes and ideas from the pages of The Ninth Daughter, but many will not make their appearance here until they are in season. Who wants mulled cider in spring, after all?

Memorable Morsels:
  • Molasses Candy
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Boiled Lobster
  • Pumpkin Cooked with Apples and Corn
  • Dumplings
  • Green Goose Pie
  • Veal Fritters
  • Indian Pudding
  • Stewed Chicken
  • Bread
  • Churned Butter
  • Cheese
  • Oatmeal

Links to Investigate Further:

Buy the Book: The Ninth Daughter (An Abigail Adams Mystery)
Author's Page on LibraryThing
Book's Page on LibraryThing

The Final Analysis


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