It is 1665, and young Lucy Campion works as a chambermaid in the household of a London magistrate. With a lively mind and a hunger to learn, she reads whatever is at hand, and her master, noting Lucy’s intelligence and common sense, lends her books—about politics and the law, for example—that women of the time don’t usually read. When she’s in the city, Lucy is alert to life around her and driven to act by injustice: there’s an amusing incident when Lucy observes a pair of cut-purses at work, robs them of their plunder, and returns it to its rightful owner.
When a local woman is brutally murdered, Lucy is intrigued. When a second victim turns out to be a friend, Lucy is determined to find the murderer.
There are subplots and factual asides about the influence of Quakers and the place of women; police methodology, legal practice, and the treatment of prisoners; the role of the popular press; and the effects of plague on the City of London; along with a healthy serving of romance.
This is a first novel for American Susanna Calkins, who according to the jacket flap, “became fascinated with seventeenth-century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history and uses her fiction to explore this chaotic period.” I would have preferred a brisker pace and a lighter touch with the descriptive language, but A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is a pleasant read despite these quibbles—and I won’t be a bit surprised if we hear more from Susanna Calkins and Lucy Campion.