A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean (thoughts)
Sometimes, I just want a comfort read, a book that will entertain and amuse me without demanding much in return. A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean, the third in a historical mystery series, fulfilled this role admirably. The series features Dido Kent, a Regency English woman who has more curiosity and independent spirit than average but definitely feels appropriate to her time period. (I find historical characters with discordant modern feminist/antiracist/etc. attitudes jarring enough that I usually abandon books featuring them.) While the first two were quite good, A Woman of Consequence really felt like Dean came into her own, with a far more fascinating and complicated mystery. Dido’s own voice is wonderfully captured, particularly in the occasional letter she writes to her absent sister, with a spirit and humour that pays gentle tribute to Jane Austen (Dido’s life circumstances also mirror Austen’s); it’s difficult to imagine anyone not liking her. The domestic details also felt right: after a reversal of family fortunes Dido has to live with a brother and his wife. The latter expects Dido to do various household chores and isn’t shy about reminding her of her dependent status. Meanwhile, Dido has to deal with her own questions of honour and friendship as her investigation turns up past secrets that could destroy people’s reputations. I appreciate it when mystery novels confront the emotional toll on the sleuth, and while Dido is not a Peter Wimsy, she does face dilemmas.
All in all, A Woman of Consequence features an engaging main character, an interesting plot, and nicely drawn setting. It’s not high literature, but I’ll certainly be putting Anna Dean on my list of go-to comfort authors. If you enjoy cosy mysteries or historical fiction that are light but still well written, give it a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Suggested Companion Reads
- A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee : the first in another light, engrossing historical mystery series, this one is set in Victorian London and features a young girl from the streets with a secret of her own.
- Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James : a good look at the (white) British/US mystery tradition, which will fill your wish list with new authors to try out.
- The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer : is it possible to mention light Regency historical fiction without a Heyer reference? This title happens to be one of my favourites (the other is Friday’s Child, which is also excellent in audio form), but I didn’t blog about it. She has an incredibly extensive back list, so I’ve just been reading from it at random!