Sunday, December 12, 2010

Death in Hellfire: Review

Death in Hellfire by Deryn Lake is a historical mystery set in eighteenth-century London. It finds Lake's hero John Rawlings investigating the infamous Hellfire Club at the behest of Sir John Fielding. Certain disreputable members of the aristocracy have been rumored to be involved and Fielding wants to know if the club is devoted to lustful pursuits only or if there is something more political and insidious going on. Rawlings assumes the persona the younger son of a mythical Irish nobleman and gains entry to Sir Francis Dashwood's home. Dashwood is believed to be deeply involved, if not a founding member. While on his mission, Rawlings becomes distracted by the atmosphere of Dashwood's home. Is the source of evil in the club the same as that in the manor house? As Rawling's flimsy disguise takes him deeper into the club's activities, he finds himself and his friend Sam--who has accompanied him as his "servant"--in more and more danger. When the murders begin, Rawlings has to wonder if he or Sam will be next.

Deryn Lake has a delightful writing style and has obviously done her research on the period. Her details are finely done without inundating the reader with "this is what happens in the 18th century." I was completely caught up in the story, until I had an awful sense of deja vu once Rawlings had gained entry to Dashwood's house. Since this book was on the "new arrivals" shelf at the library, I thought it couldn't be possible that I have read this story before. Then I looked at the publication date and realized that I could well have read it and forgotten to log it. Either that or I have read a story with similar circumstances. That took some of the pleasure out of the book. There is a real difference between deliberately rereading a book you've enjoyed and picking up one that you think is new only to find that you know exactly what is going to happen. I rate this book a good solid three stars out of five. I'm quite sure it deserves more than that--Deryn Lake is an excellent mystery writer. But I have to rate my experience now...not what I might have given it if it truly had been my first reading.

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