Katharine Schellman

Books: Mystery | Historical | Queer

Lily Adler: The Body in the Garden (2020), Silence in the Library (2021), Death at the Manor (2022), 

Lily Adler

The Body in the Garden (2020)

The Body in the GardenSet in England in 1815.

Lily Adler has returned to London in an attempt to restart her life after the loss of her husband.

Lily had to take a deep breath before she could respond. It had been two years, but her chest still clenched almost too tightly to breathe every time she thought about Freddy.

She is reunited with her oldest friend, Serena, and Freddie’s best friend, Captain Hartley, who is in London while his ship is in for repairs. But at Serena’s ball she stumbles upon two men arguing in the garden–and soon one of those men is dead.

This was a very well done first book. The mystery is good, the characters are lovely, and the author did her research. The two who help Lily investigate the murder are have mothers from India and the Caribbean, and although both are mostly accepted into society, there are issues with racism.

“Plenty of Lascars in the navy, but precious few of them made post captain, eh!” The admiral chuckled. “And what was it the Indian fellows began calling you in response?”

“Captain English.” Jack grinned, though Lily noticed the lines of strain around his mouth. “Forever betwixt and between, I am.”

“Above all things, my aunt likes not having to chaperone me about.”

Lily frowned. “I had not thought her so elderly as that. But perhaps she is unwell?”

“Neither old nor sick.” Miss Oswald’s voice was grim. “She does not care to have me living with her, or to have anything to do with me if she can possibly avoid it. Unfortunately for her, my father made it clear that my London season is one of those things she cannot avoid.”

I also appreciated the acknowledgement that there were separate systems of justice for the wealthy and for everyone.

The accusation was not unreasonable; while the fledgling police force at Bow Street was paid a salary to keep the officers from accepting bribes, many still did. But the fault was not entirely one-sided: most members of Lily’s class were more than willing to use their money to turn an investigation in their favor or keep the law away from their families.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Rating: 8/10

Silence in the Library (2021)

Silence in the LibrarySet in London in 1815

Lily Adler has slowly getting back into life in London, when she received an unexpected visitor: her father. The man disapproves of absolutely everything she does–and isn’t quiet about his opinions.

Although she doesn’t appreciate his demands or her presence, she takes the escape of visiting her father’s best friend, Lord Wyatt, to congratulate him on his marriage. There, she is confused by the Frank’s open hostility to his father’s new wife. She is also unfortunate enough to witness accusations of theft and the ensuing scene.

I am coming to really really like these books.

This story has neurodiversity representation as it would have been seen at the time.

It is a common misperception that because terms like “neurodivergent” are modern inventions, the people they describe are found only in modern times. But plenty of historical accounts show the presence of individuals with what we would consider sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorder. The lives of neurodivergent individuals in history varied widely, as they do now, but could be especially challenging if their families did not have the funds for their care.

And as fits into the story.

“On the one hand, he thinks having such a brother reflects poorly on the family and resents him. He especially resents how fond Sir Charles was of Arthur. On the other hand, he’s offended that he’s not one of the people Arthur will speak to.”

The mystery was excellent, the characters were wonderful, and I appreciated that things were not easy (or superficially) resolved with Lily’s father.

There is an undercurrent of romance in this series, and another man has been introduced to Lily–one whom her friends thing she would be a good match for. It’s a small part of the story, but I can’t help preferring Jack, even if Simon is also lovely.

I’ve already started reading the next book in the series.

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Rating: 9/10

Death at the Manor (2022)

Death at the ManorSet in England in 1815.

Jack’s ship is repaired and ready to return to see, and Lily is headed to the country to visit her aunt.

“Will you write me?”

“Of course. I shall tell you how revered I am aboard ship and how no one ever dares tell me I am wrong about anything. Perhaps it will influence you and Lady Carroway to treat me with more respect when I return.”

Lily’s aunts were, interestingly, what I was expecting.

“The cottage comes to me, with the provision in her will that Miss Clarke is to be allowed to reside there as long as she wishes. But her income passes to Miss Clarke before coming to me—I believe they have both arranged things similarly so that the other might continue to live independently.”

What I wasn’t expecting was Lily’s reaction to figuring things out.

Did she really think she could be the one to untangle it? When she had taken so long to realize what was right in front of her nose—when she had not, in fact, realized, until it had been plainly spelled out for her? She was glad no one was there to see her embarrassment.

In addition to murder, Hampshire contains Mr Spenser. Lily and Matthew has been dancing uneasily around their attraction to each other, and now they will be spending more time together.

I found myself (once again) siding with Ofelia.

“I do not care what the captain would say,” she said, lifting her chin defiantly. “He cannot ask me to stay loyal to Mr. Adler forever, however much we both loved him.”

“Oh.” Ofelia felt her eyes grow wide. She had always thought Mrs. Adler exceptionally intelligent—but apparently even the cleverest of women could have unfortunate blind spots. Either that or Mrs. Adler was protesting a little too much because she knew, even if she had not yet admitted it to herself, what the captain’s objection might be.

The mystery was interesting, and I pretty much guessed wrong. Repeatedly.

But it was a fun story, and I very much enjoyed it.

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Rating: 8/10