cover image The Case of the Wandering Scholar

The Case of the Wandering Scholar

Kate Saunders. Bloomsbury, $17 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-63286-839-8

Set in 1851, Saunders’s excellent sequel to 2016’s The Secrets of Wishtide opens with 53-year-old Laetitia Rodd, a clergyman’s widow who does inquiries to supplement her meager income, hearing a plea from Jacob Welland, a fellow Hampstead resident who’s dying of consumption. Jacob wants her to find his younger brother, Joshua, from whom he became estranged after Jacob wooed and married Joshua’s love some 15 years before, so he can make amends. Joshua has been living “like a wild creature, in hedges and ditches” around Oxford in the years since a breakdown ended his studies at Oxford University. To facilitate her search, Mrs. Rodd stays with clergyman Arthur Somers and his wife, Rachel, outside Oxford. Though Somers’s obsessive High Church practices disturb her, she gleans useful information from parish curate Henry Barton, a friendly Oxford don. When Arthur is poisoned, Henry and Rachel, who Mrs. Rodd has guessed love each other, are arrested for the crime, and she strives to prove their innocence. Saunders’s exquisite prose and patient storytelling build a convincing Victorian voice, while Mrs. Rodd’s shrewd, energetic narration adds further appeal to the rich depiction of 19th-century landscapes and attitudes. Mainstream readers who appreciate Victorian fiction will be rewarded. Agent: Caradoc King, A.P. Watt. (Dec.)