From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins
Posted By Book Reviewer on August 20, 2023
From the Charred Remains is a historical mystery set in 1666 just after the Great Fire has swept through the city. The protagonist, Lucy Campion, a maid in the household of the local magistrate, is helping to clear away the rubble of buildings burnt down by the fire, when two boys discover a body. A corpse would not be unusual in itself, but this one was hidden in a barrel and has a knife sticking out of its chest. The man did not die in the fire.
Lucy has come to a crossroads in her life. Her mistress is dead from the plague so she’s a lady’s maid in a house with no lady, and she’s in love with the son of the house, Adam. She can’t live in this limbo any more, so she persuades a printer to take her on as an apprentice and in her spare time, with the help of her good friend Constable Duncan, she investigates the murder with the help of a bag of a “hodgepodge” of interesting objects found near the body, putting herself and those she cares about in danger. The investigation takes her from taverns to noble households, from gamblers to earls, from decoding poems to investigating alleged poisoning, from serving in a magistrate’s household to being put in prison! And this man’s dead body won’t be the last she sees!
It’s a wonderful read. Lucy is a likeable character and it’s easy to identify with her thoughts and feelings even though we’re nearly 400 years removed from her life and times. I also loved the Constable’s character and was desperate for Lucy to give up on Adam and fall for him instead!
I hadn’t read the first Lucy Campion mystery, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but this didn’t matter. I may have missed out on some of Lucy’s life story by diving into book 2 first, but the mystery was a stand-alone one and so could be enjoyed out of order, and the writing certainly drew me into the story. I will definitely be reading the next two, The Masque of a Murderer and A Death Along the River Fleet.
Blurb from Amazon:
It’s 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady’s maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact―the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.
Searching for a purpose now that there’s no lady in the magistrate’s household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can’t help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself.
With “From the Charred Remains”, Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.
Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (March 17, 2015)
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and your usual bookstore.
Originally posted on March 7, 2016.