The Painted Lady

The Painted Lady by Edward Marston.  Marston writes several different series featuring Robert Colbeck as the Railway Detective, Nicholas Bracewell in the Elizabethan theater, and Domesday Commissioners Ralph Delchard and Gervase Bret in early Norman times.  My least favorite series is that with architect Christopher Redmayne during the Restoration period of the 1660s.  However, I found this sixth entry in the series a pleasant surprise and flew through its almost 300 pages in just one day of heavy reading (being stuck in bed sick does have some compensations).  Christopher’s libertine brother, Henry, has joined with three other like-minded gentlemen to form the Society for the Capture of Araminta’s Maidenhood only to be thwarted by the lady-in-question’s marriage to Sir Martin Culthorpe.  The new husband commissions a portrait of his bride to be rendered by the French artist, Jean-Paul Villemot, but before it can be completed, Sir Martin is murdered and the foreigner arrested for the crime.  Christopher, who stands to lose a large commission himself as he is building Villemot’s new house in London, believes in his client’s innocence and steps in to prove that one of the Society members has taken criminal action in his continued pursuit of the beautiful Araminta. 

The murder plot itself is not terribly complicated with a limited number of suspects and clues, but readers of the series get to see much more of Henry Redmayne in this book than in previous episodes and the other supporting characters: the puritan constable Jonathan Bale, the lady Araminta and her maid Eleanor, and the artist and his valet Emile, all provide a measure of entertainment.

I was surprised that the cover art for the Allison & Busby hardback edition showed the lady in neither black mourning dress nor in the bright blue gown of the portrait, but in red and gold instead.  An incongruous choice in my opinion.

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