The Deathly Portent

The Deathly Portent

3.5 2
by Elizabeth Bailey

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Her charm and cajolery may fool the unwary.
Unscrupulous and cunning, as dauntless as she is resolute, the incomparable "Lady Fan" is as ruthless as the killer she is tracking in...

A violent murder has left the village of Witherley aghast. The locals are convinced that a witch doing the devil's work is to blame-a young woman believed to have

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Her charm and cajolery may fool the unwary.
Unscrupulous and cunning, as dauntless as she is resolute, the incomparable "Lady Fan" is as ruthless as the killer she is tracking in...

A violent murder has left the village of Witherley aghast. The locals are convinced that a witch doing the devil's work is to blame-a young woman believed to have second sight. The new vicar, Aidan, taking up the cudgels in her defence, fears the witch hunt is escalating out of his control. But help is at hand.

The bright and perceptive Ottilia, once a lady's companion and now bride to Lord Francis Fanshawe, is drawn to Witherley by an insatiable curiosity. Ottilia rapidly uncovers a raft of suspects with grudges against the dead man, one of whom is determined to incriminate the "witch." And as foul play runs rampant, Ottilia must wade through the growing hysteria to unravel the tangle and point a finger at the one true menace...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Marriage hasn’t dulled the keen wits of Ottilia, Lady Fanshawe, as shown in Bailey’s engaging second Regency historical (after 2011’s The Gilded Shroud). When a broken axle strands Ottilia, known familiarly as Tillie, and her new husband, Lord Francis, near the village of Witherley, they hope the local blacksmith, Duggleby, can help fix their coach. Alas, Duggleby has just died after the roof of his smithy caved in. Since a young woman, Cassie Dale, had a vision of that collapse beforehand, the villagers label Cassie a witch and blame her for Duggleby’s murder. Tillie’s examination of the corpse confirms suspicions that the victim had his head bashed in before the ceiling crushed him, but her defense of Cassie against ignorant superstition proves personally extremely risky. The plot’s framework could come straight out of Agatha Christie, and if Bailey’s lead isn’t the most memorable of sleuths, she’s still good company. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Associates. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
The village blacksmith succumbs to a roof cave-in. Ottilia and her new husband Sir Francis Fanshawe are returning to their estate from a visit to her aging, deaf and snapping mentor when their carriage wheels become mired in mud and the axle breaks. While Tillie picks wildflowers and Fan cusses their plight, his man Ryde heads for the nearest village to get help. On his return, he tells them that the poor blacksmith Duggleby died the night before, squashed under a falling roof, then finished off by a fire. The locals, he adds, have blamed his death on Cassie Dale--a spawn of the devil, they maintain, who foresaw the smith's demise through her second sight. They took after her and her maid, pounding them with stones. The women barely managed to reach the vicarage, where the newly appointed Rev. Aiden Kinnerton sheltered them. Second sight? A suspicious death? Tillie's snooping instincts are aroused, and she cajoles Fan into getting them to Witherley so that she can begin some decorous prying. Before the lid is nailed shut on Duggleby's coffin, Tillie has learned that someone whacked him fiercely on the head, that a pair of chambermaids are warring over marriage prospects and that another maid has gone missing. There'll be more death and hints about secret riches; the Rev. Kinnerton will continue having nightmares about his service in Africa; and the drinkers at the pub will continue accusing Mrs. Dale of witchcraft. But Tillie and her beloved Fan will sort through all these imbroglios to the truth, then, exhausted, head for home. Like The Gilded Shroud (2011, etc.), a fulsome simulacrum of the Regency era, with just enough upstairs/downstairs brouhaha to entertain fans of Downton Abbey.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
A Lady Fan Mystery Series, #2
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 4.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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The Deathly Portent 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
FrancesNC More than 1 year ago
This is an author in love with the sound of her own prose. The book is far too long for the actual plot, and many words are devoted to reiterations of the heroine's charm, intuitive firepower, and mutual marital devotion. The potential suspects and their assorted idiosyncrasies are numerous and unnecessarily complex,. What would have been a pleasant though undistinguished diversion becomes a bit of a slog.
SallyPinkReviews More than 1 year ago
Bailey pens a taut, suspenseful "who-done-it" with The Deathly Portent. Set in the small English town of Witherly, Lord and Lady Fanshawe find themselves stranded when their carriage loses a wheel. Unfortunately for them, the only person in town who can help them with their problem has just been murdered. Can Lady Fan solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again? Set in the 1800's against a rural English backdrop, the novel opens with the citizens of Witherly chasing Cassie Dale. They call her a witch and blame her for the death of the local blacksmith, Duggleby. Thankfully, the new pastor, Aiden Kinnerton comes to her aid. He's going to need help in solving Duggleby's murder, though. In a stroke of luck – or unfortunate circumstance – Ottila and Francis Fanshawe find themselves stranded when their carriage breaks down. Ottila is a bit of a sleuth and can't help but investigate the circumstances surrounding the blacksmith's death, especially when she discovers the fire which destroyed the smitty was set deliberately to hide the blow on the head that killed him. Lord and Lady Fanshawes' arrival and investigation stir up the cobwebs in the quiet town. Ottila and Francis met an assorted cast of characters, all who have motives to kill the blacksmith. There's Duggleby's long suffering wife, Mr. Uddington, whose wife had an affair with the victim, and the old bittys, Mrs. Radlett and Miss Beeleigh, who hated the smith for killing Mrs. Radlett's dog. Unfortunately, the prime suspect is Cassie Dale, the young lady the townsfolk call a witch because she has the gift of foresight. Ottila isn't fooled by the obvious and can scent out a secret like a bloodhound. As she closes in on a potential suspect, there's another murder. When the stakes are erected – literally – can Ottila avoid danger and reveal who the killer is before she's next? Bailey's writing is lush and vivid, striking to the heart of the setting by enveloping the reader into the story with authentic dialogue and rich narrative. I felt like a serving girl at the Pakefield's establishment, the Blue Pig, watching as Ottila investigated Duggleby's death. The pacing takes its time as it introduces the colorful citizens of Witherly and slowly uncovers the clues behind the murder. What makes the wait entertaining is the rich characterization. The Fanshawes are a delight! Ottila and Francis compliment each other well. Lady Fan is a force to be reckoned with. She's determined, focused, and courageous – which gets her in trouble when danger arises. Lord Fan gives Ottila the space she needs while offering his steadfast support. The suspects shine against Witherly's landscape from the old bittys, to the serving girls, to the witch, to the crusty old lawmen – they're serious, entertaining and all will worm their way into the reader's heart with their very human faults and honest emotions. The Deathly Portent is a sequel to The Gilded Shroud, but the story reads well as a stand alone. As the suspense builds, the novel culminates in an exciting ending. If you're a fan of historicals and mysteries, you'll enjoy this story. This is my first Elizabeth Bailey novel, and it won't be my last. "The Deathly Portent" sweeps the reader off to another time and place and leaves them breathless.