A Woman of Consequence: The Investigations of Miss Dido Kentby Anna Dean
"If Jane Austen had written Miss Marple, she would have been Dido Kent, the inquisitive spinster."--Kirkus (starred review)
A Woman of Consequence, the third installment in Anna Dean's charming mystery series, opens with a visit to the ruins of an Abbey where Penelope Lambe, suffers a bad fall from the ancient stone steps. Before she/i>/p>/i>/b>… See more details below
"If Jane Austen had written Miss Marple, she would have been Dido Kent, the inquisitive spinster."--Kirkus (starred review)
A Woman of Consequence, the third installment in Anna Dean's charming mystery series, opens with a visit to the ruins of an Abbey where Penelope Lambe, suffers a bad fall from the ancient stone steps. Before she slips into unconsciousness, Penelope manages to say, 'I saw her—It was her.' Soon people are certain that she saw the Grey Nun, a ghost reputed to walk the abbey's ruins. Miss Dido Kent, however, does not approve of ghosts. Disregarding everyone else's assumptions, and endeavoring to take her mind off the troubles of her family, Dido turns her energy toward solving the mystery. But events start to seem more sinister when a human skeleton is found at the abbey. Is Miss Lambe's accident connected to this discovery? Everyone is relying on Dido to find out. A captivating continuation of the Dido Kent series: rich in suspense, historical detail, and most of all, characters.
“A clever regency sleuth is much like Jane Austen with her ability to see that the mundane things of life are more important than they seem.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With its unusually fine sense of time and place, this third Dido Kent entry (after A Gentleman of Fortune, 2010) makes a charming addition to Dean’s Regency mystery series.”
“Set in 1806, Dean’s pleasing third mystery featuring Miss Dido Kent (after 2011’s A Gentleman of Fortune) showcases the amateur sleuth’s most outstanding characteristic—her curiosity. From Badleigh Vicarage, Dido writes to her sister, Eliza, of Penelope Lambe’s falling and hitting her head at ruined Madderstone Abbey, where the “sweet-tempered, good-natured girl” had gone in the hope of getting a glimpse of the abbey ghost known as the Grey Nun. Penelope’s claim to have seen the Grey Nun shortly before losing consciousness leads Dido to investigate Madderstone for herself. The discovery in a drained pool on the abbey grounds of a human skeleton raises the stakes. Dean smoothly integrates a wealth of historical detail, especially regarding the rights of women and the inheritance laws in effect in the early 19th century. Well-drawn secondary characters, from Dido’s dour sister-in-law to an opium-eating poet, lend color.”
“Dean has again scored highly with an imaginative mystery that captures Regency England not only with Austen-like prose but, more importantly, with an accurate portrayal of the customs and challenges of the time, particularly as they involved the suspicion cast upon women with minds of their own.”
“As the book-jacket blurb suggests, Miss Dido Kent’s sleuthing sensibilities will bring to mind a heady mix of a Miss Marple created by Jane Austen. Set in 1806 England, this third Regency adventure involves a visit to an abandoned abbey on an estate where the Grey Nun of Madderstone is alleged to be the resident ghost.
Dido puts no stock in the occult but when her friend, the beauteous Penelope, is badly injured in a fall at the abbey but manages to mutter, “I saw her…” before lapsing into unconsciousness, her beliefs are tested. The unearthing of a skeleton at the allegedly haunted abbey provides further complications.
Dean has created a most delightful sleuth of style and substance, outwardly staid but subtly opposing the prejudices of the period. This mystery of manners aptly captures the mores of early 19th-century English society at its most hypocritical, revealed to readers through personal correspondence and occurrences surrounding the mystery. Proper ladies are supposed to tend to their embroidery and not see ghosts or solve murders. Dean succeeds with Dido’s latest adventure admirably, even adding an ongoing romance to the proceedings.”
“This is the third in Dean’s Dido Kent engaging historical series set in England. Miss Kent, an unmarried woman of a certain age, referred to as a spinster in her time, is writing to her sister, Eliza, as the book opens. She’s trying to give Eliza an account of Penelope Lambe’s accident, but her sister-in-law, pointedly and repeatedly reminds her that she is dependent on her brother’s hospitality—a cold garret room—and there is mending to do. Margaret, the sister-in-law, continues to interrupt the letter writing throughout the story, but Dido manages to clearly relate her feelings to her sister—and to us.
In between, we witness the strange goings on at Madderstone Abbey, the ghost of the Grey Nun, mysterious lights in the ruins, and the annoying Crockford sisters Lucy and Harriet, who are visiting the Harman-Footes of Madderstone, along with their good friend Penelope. Penelope hasn’t yet recovered from her fall at the ruins when a skeleton is found in a recently drained pool. Dido engages to find out who the skeleton is and how she died, not believing the conclusions of the local experts.
A trip to Bath and the attentions of the handsome Mr. Lomax, endeavor to keep Dido from her enquiries. She is also thwarted by Captain Laurence, a man she considers coarse and “altogether more masculine” than a man should be.
The historical aspect is just right. For me, the language was authentic to the period, but not stilted and difficult to read, as can happen in historicals that strive for accuracy. I hope for many more Dido Kent investigations.”
—Reviewed by Kaye George, author of “Choke” for Suspense Magazine
Praise for A Gentleman of Fortune
“With its engaging characters and stories of substance, this compelling series will give enjoyment to fans of Anne Perry, Agatha Christie, or Deanna Raybourn.” —Library Journal
“The plight of a gentleman raised in luxury yet entirely dependent on the good will of elderly relatives will resonate with fans of Jane Austen's Emma.” —Publishers Weekly
“Delightful. The clever puzzle and pitch-perfect Regency prose will charm readers.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With a surfeit of suspects, an ingenious solution, and a clever and sympathetic heroine in Dido, Dean has crafted an elegant historical mystery.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia)
Read an Excerpt
A Woman of ConsequenceThe Investigations of Miss Dido Kent
By Anna Dean
Minotaur BooksCopyright © 2012 Anna Dean
All right reserved.
Woman of Consequence, A
Chapter OneBadleigh Vicarage, Wednesday, 8th October 1806
My dear Eliza,I promised yesterday that just as soon as I had leisure for writing I should send you a full and satisfactory account of Penelope Lambe's accident at Madderstone Abbey; and so I shall begin upon it. Though I fear I may have to leave off at any moment, for there is a great deal of needlework to be done for the little boys at school and Margaret has already opened her workbox and begun to look at me with displeasure.In yesterday's note I was kind enough to hint at some very peculiar circumstances surrounding Penelope's fall and I do not doubt that since receiving it you have enjoyed all the apprehensions and heightened imaginings which such hints can supply. And I trust my account will not disappoint you, for it was a very strange business indeed - one which I cannot, yet, understand at all.The first thing you must know is that it all came about because of the ghost - I mean, of course, the Grey Nun of Madderstone.And, by the by, it occurs to me ...'Well, Dido,' said Mrs Margaret Kent heavily, 'I daresay that when I was unmarried I had leisure for writing long letters.' She regarded her sister-in-law with the tragic aspectof a saint bound for the pagan arena in Rome. 'I declare it is more than a fortnight since I touched my writing desk.''Yes,' said the unrepentant Dido without ceasing to move her pen. 'It is quite one of the evils of matrimony, is it not?'
... it occurs to me, Eliza, that the Grey Nun is a remarkably important lady. The possession of a family ghost confers such dignity! I believe that every family which has any claim at all to grandeur should have a ghost. I consider it a kind of necessary which should be attended to as soon as the fortune is made and the country estate purchased.Everyone's consequence is increased by the presence of a ghost.For here are the two Crockford sisters, who are no more than some kind of third cousins to the Harman-Footes of Madderstone, but they must walk their visitor, Penelope, two miles across the fields to see the Grey Nun. Well, not perhaps quite her, for she cannot of course be relied upon to be always at home to morning callers - but at least the ruins in which she is reputed to appear.I said to Penelope, when I was invited to accompany them, 'It is not enough, you know, that we should entertain you with parties and visits while you are here in Badleigh. We cannot send you back to your school in Bath without first chilling your blood and supplying you with nightmares to last a twelvemonth.'And she, I discovered, was very grateful for the attention. For she had 'never set foot in a real abbey before' and she did 'most sincerely hope that it was very dreadful and just exactly like what one read about in books ...'Well, she is a sweet-tempered, good-natured girl and sovery pretty that I always find great pleasure in looking at her - but I do not believe that she has more than common sense. However, since she is now lying abed with an injured head, I ought not to speak ill of her, and I confess that her eager naivety suits my taste a great deal better than Lucy Crockford's studied sensibility.All the while that we were walking to Madderstone ...'It is a great pity,' said Margaret loudly, 'that Eliza is not here. She is a very fine needlewoman.''It is extremely kind of you to say so, Margaret. I shall be sure to pass on the compliment.''And so very obliging. Why, last spring, she sewed three shirts for little Frank in as many days.''Did she indeed? How remarkable!' Dido resolutely continued with her letter, but a glance across the green baize of the parlour table had shown colour mounting in Margaret's broad cheeks, her narrow mouth tightening. If there was not to be a state of warfare in the house, she must soon lay her pen aside. As she bent her head further over her page she rather fancied that she felt, prickling through her cap, not only the heat of autumn sunshine magnified by the window, but also a disapproving gaze.And yet she could not help but try for a few lines more:
All the while that we were walking to Madderstone, Lucy was talking in her slowest, most languishing tones of the 'extraordinary atmosphere of melancholy which haunts the ruins.' An atmosphere to which she is herself 'most extraordinarily sensitive.' For 'no one - no one in the world - feels these things more acutely' than she does. And there have been times when she has been 'almost overwhelmed bythe extraordinary atmosphere of the ruins ...'So those two continued to talk of ghosts, with only an occasional digression in praise of Captain Laurence - who, I suppose, must be considered a secondary motive for our visit to Madderstone Abbey.And, by the by, I cannot help but wonder that Lucy and Penelope should contrive to be both in love with the captain without any cooling of affection between themselves. Nor can I quite determine whether it argues most for the sweetness of their natures, the weakness of their understanding - or only the insignificance of their attachment to the gentleman.
The sunny silence of the room was broken by Margaret's searching noisily in the workbasket for a spool of thread. Dido began to write faster:
Harriet Crockford, I noticed, scowled darkly whenever her sister talked of the captain; I do not think she has a very high opinion of him. But I could not prevail upon her to discuss this interesting topic. And, while nuns and the navy were canvassed by the other two, Harriet and I were much less pleasantly engaged. It was roof leads and damp in the kitchen passage all the way with us.Harriet informs me that there is a hole in the roof at Ashfield which is a yard and three-quarters long and twenty-seven inches broad. It would, I am further informed, 'break Dear Papa's heart' if he could see the hole in Ashfield's roof. And, if my memory were only a little better, I could relate to you the exact cost of the tiles and lead which will be required to repair it.Poor Harriet: there are times when she goes beyond being sensible and is downright dull. And it is very disconcertingthat a woman who is more than two years my junior can seem so very old. I find myself wishing that she would not wear such a dowdy bonnet, nor such a large and unbecoming cap beneath it; and I begin to despair of her ever having an original thought - I believe she only lives to reflect the ideas of dear dead Papa ...But now I am getting quite off the point. It is such a very great pleasure and relief to 'talk' to you, Eliza, that I cannot stop my pen from running away with me.I must return to that woman of consequence: the Grey Nun. For it would seem that yesterday she was indeed at home to callers! Or so Lucy believes.
There was another, louder, sigh from the other side of the table.'Well, well, I suppose you have nothing else to occupy your time,' said Margaret, 'but I confess that it makes me quite envious to see you writing away all day.' There followed some vigorous stabbing at a shirtsleeve. 'The truth is,' she continued, 'that when your cottage was given up and it was proposed that you should come to live with us, I told your brother: "Francis, my dear," I said, "I am sure I shall do all that I can for your poor sisters, but I do not know how I shall manage - with all the business I have to attend to - I do not know how I shall manage with having a visitor constantly in my house."'It was too much. Reminded of her dependence, Dido bit her lip, set aside her pen - and reached for the workbasket.A WOMAN OF CONSEQUENCE. Copyright © 2010 by Anna Dean. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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A lovely series for those who enjoy period mysteries.