cover image The Deathly Portent

The Deathly Portent

Elizabeth Bailey. Berkley Prime Crime, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-425-24567-5

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.)