Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton (Abigail Adams #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great historical characters; suspensful climax
Cons: Obvious plot; writing more a distraction than a help
The Bottom Line:
Wish I liked this book
But the plot and the writing
Made it hard to do

Abigail Adams - Detective

I’m always thinking I need to read more historical mysteries.  I’ve long had the books of Barbara Hambly on my to be read list because I’ve heard so many raves about them.  So when I stumbled upon her series, written as Barbara Hamilton, set in Boston right before the American Revolution and starring Abigail Adams, I jumped on them.  The Ninth Daughter is the first in the series, and will most likely be my last.

Fall is turning into winter in 1773 Boston.  Tension is in the air thanks to the new tax on tea and the patriots who are now refusing to pay it or drink tea at all.

In the midst of this tension, Abigail Adams goes to see her friend Rebecca Malvern and discovers a dead woman on the floor of Mrs. Malvern’s house.  The woman is a stranger.  Who could she be?  Why was she killed here?  And where has Mrs. Malvern gone?  When Abigail’s husband John becomes the chief suspect, Abigail begins to hunt not only for her friend but the killer to clear her husband’s name.

Before we get into character and plot, let’s discuss the writing because that was actually a big stumbling block for me.  It attempted to capture the feel of the writing and speaking from the time period, which means it wasn’t the normal quick read I’m used to.  Usually when this happens, if I give it a few chapters, I get into the feel of the writing and the story and then I’m hooked, but that never happened here.

This is despite some great characters.  Abigail is a wonderful woman, and I wanted to enjoy spending time with her.  Likewise, her relationship with John is great, and seeing so many famous men flick in and out of the story was fun for this history lover.  However, between the real people and the fictional mystery suspects, there were a lot of people to remember, and I often found myself confusing characters even late in the story.  The suspects could have been better developed; too much emphasis was placed on the real people.

Then there’s the plot.  I was actually surprised when I was looking at reviews at Amazon to find some people complaining about how complex it was.  I had the majority of it figured out before I hit the half way point.  I did miss the motive, but honestly it was so painfully obvious when it was revealed that I should have seen that coming, too.

And don’t let the cover of the book fool you, this is not a cozy mystery.  The murder is very grisly and the book goes to some dark places before it is all over.

So why three stars?  To be honest, I was seriously considering two, but then I reached the climax which, while a bit over the top, was still so suspenseful I couldn’t put the book down.  I decided to be generous and round up.

There are three books in the Abigail Adams series, but The Ninth Daughter will probably be the only one I read.  It’s a shame because I really thought I’d found a series I’d enjoy.

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