Christine Trent


Lady of the Ashes (2013)



Lady of the Ashes (2013)

Lady-of-the-AshesSet in London in 1861

Violet Morgan is the wife of an undertaker who has joined her husband in his job, because she discovered she is very good at it. However, over time her husband’s obsession with the United States beings to cause problems for their marriage, as he becomes seemingly more and more unhinged.

This is the first book in a mystery series, however, it doesn’t read like a mystery series. It is instead a sprawling historical that is all over the place.

I didn’t give up on the story, because I really was curious as to how things would turn out, but there were many parts that I barely skimmed, looking to get through the odd historical bits plopped in seemingly at random, such as Abraham Lincoln dialog. (Seriously, Abraham makes random appearances, all of which I briefly skimmed when I realized they had no bearing on the mystery.)

It’s not that I dislike extraneous detail, after all, I really enjoyed the bits about funerary practice.

Clocks were traditionally stopped at the time of death to mark the deceased’s departure from this current life and into the next. Tradition held that to permit time to continue was to invite the deceased’s spirit to remain in the home instead of moving on.

Six pallbearers had been selected from among Mr. Stanley’s friends, and could only serve in this duty if they were near Mr. Stanley’s age. Even at children’s funerals the pallbearers had to be selected from other children close to the deceased’s age.

(A) sitting monarch was not permitted to attend a funeral.

The Victorians generally viewed embalming as unseemly, since it meant filling a body with sometimes toxic fluids, then committing the body to the ground, where it should be decomposing naturally.

But the bits about the US Civil War seemed to come from out of nowhere, and didn’t seem to add to the story in any discernible way. I suppose if you were completely oblivious to the US Civil War those bits might be interesting or useful, but I just found them dull, and distracting from the story.

With all these extraneous details, it was hard to tell what the mystery truly was. Was it the intrigue her husband was embroiled in? What about this diary excerpts that had absolutely no bearing on the story?

There was a lot here, and if it had been more ruthlessly edited or decided precisely what kind of story it wanted to be, I would have enjoyed it more.
Rating: 5.5/10

Published by Kensington