A Death at the Rose Paperworks
Set in Portland, Ore., in 1894, this pleasant historical mystery gives readers a window into a nearly extinct industry (rag-pulp papermaking) and a long-ago society in which a self-reliant single woman was practically unheard of. The pseudonymous Zellnik (a bicoastal, brother-sister writing team) does a credible job of creating this world, but the novel is hampered by repetitiveness and fussy, stilted language. Following the friendship formed in the first book in the series (2005's Murder at the Portland Variety), self-employed seamstress Libby Seale again teams up with newspaper reporter Peter Eberle to solve a gruesome murder at the paper mill, one of the town's largest employers. Along the way, their attraction grows, but romance seems hopeless, for Libby is legally unable to extricate herself from a loveless, abusive marriage. The final scene presents a genuine surprise, which is also an obvious segue to the next book. Readers who have come to care about Libby will be eager to learn what lies ahead for this spunky heroine.