A Flaw in the Blood

A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron. Although historical mysteries are rife with murderous Lords, Counts, Dukes and other members of the upper class, it’s highly unusual for the Queen of England to be depicted as the primary villain. Barron has written a long series with Jane Austen as the main investigator (none of which I have read because Austen does not interest me at all), but this story appears to be a stand alone set in the days immediately following the death of Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, in 1861. The Queen incorrectly believes that a dangerous royal secret has fallen into the hands of Irish lawyer Patrick Fitzgerald and his ward, Dr. Georgiana Armistead. Therefore, she sets her German enforcer Graf von Stuhlen to eliminate the worry. When the initial attempt fails, Fitzgerald and Armistead realize the danger and that they must discover the secret for themselves before von Stuhlen catches up with them. Their adventure takes them across Europe to the home of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty and back again as the German leaves a trail of deaths, blamed on our heroes, in their wake.

The story has good pacing, though some readers may find the switching between the third person narrative describing the main plot and the first person entries supposedly written by the Queen herself a bit disorienting. Von Stuhlen is an excellent, ruthless maniac willing to do anything to gain power. The setting is well-described and after some confusion, the damning secret is sufficiently explained. I’m not a big fan of Victorian pieces, but the choice of her majesty as the spider at the center of the web makes it worth examining.


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