Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Keeper of Secrets by Judith Cutler

Title: The Keeper of Secrets
Author: Judith Cutler
ISBN: 9780749079123, Allison & Busby, 2008
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: B

First Line: I was musing on my future, seated in the room I had been kindly allocated in the east wing of Moreton Priory, when I heard the scream of terror.

Judith Cutler is one of my favorite writers, and I'm a bit puzzled as to why she's not more well known on this side of the pond. Her characterizations are often brilliant, she knows how to plot and to set a fine pace. She's even made me laugh countless times, so she's no stranger to humor.

Her series about young police officer Kate Powers shows how difficult it can be to juggle a personal life with a demanding career. Her series about an older police officer Fran Harman portrays a very caring woman toward the end of her career, and she's also written two laugh-out-loud funny books centering around Josie Welford, a middle-aged pub owner in the West Country. When I discovered that she'd written an historical mystery, I almost clicked my heels together in glee. I couldn't wait to see what Cutler could do in a different time period. She does a very fine job indeed with young Parson Tobias Campion in the spring of 1810.

Born to a life of wealth, Campion accepts a living in the small village of Moreton St. Jude, and his real education begins. His privileged childhood has not prepared him for the poverty in which he's surrounded. Fortunately he's guided by a fine cast of supporting characters: his childhood friend and (now) servant Jem, Edmund Hansard the local doctor, and the housekeeper of Moreton Priory, Mrs. Beckles. He is a sincere and quick learner which is a very good thing because things begin to happen. A poacher dies a suspicious death. A local aristocrat meets an untimely end, and Campion himself is viciously attacked. Just what is going on in Moreton St. Jude? What is the secret for which someone is so eager to kill?

Cutler once again has a marvelous cast with the lovable and naive Campion at the center surrounded by three stout hearts and true. The early nineteenth century comes to life under her pen, and her social commentary is in turns chilling and humorous. The only part of the book that was a letdown for me was the identity of the murderer. I don't consciously set out to figure out whodunit from the very first page. If I do figure it out, all well and good, but one phrase in The Keeper of Secrets leaped out at me, and everything fell into place way too early. I felt as though I'd stepped on the blade of a hoe and got whacked right between the eyes with the stick. Ouch.

That was a bit disappointing, but my championship of Judith Cutler is unchanged. I won't rest until I've read every single one of her books!


  1. This looks very interesting to me -- to bad I have to stay away from adding to my TBR list. Well, for a while anyway!


  2. Good morning.... this looks interesting, then I read your final comment....LOL...
    Whacked with a hoe? LOL....

    I've read books like that. Thanks for reviewing.

  3. :) Even with your caveat, you've interested me in this series! If I like the characters, I can forgive a lot!

  4. I don't think I've read any of her books. I'll have to keep her on my radar. Your last line is too strong to ignore!

  5. Sounds like a good author!

  6. I'm putting this on my shopping list right now. Historical mystery? That's for me for sure. You've convinced me.

  7. Despite the hoe wacking, this sounds good to me (and I mentioned your review in my Friday Finds this week). Since I've never heard of this author, would you recommend starting with one of her other books first?

  8. i've never heard of this author either...but i love a good mystery. i am just starting to get into some historical fiction and this books sounds like fun--especially the exposition of england in the early 1800s!

  9. Sassy--I'll never stop adding to my lists. I just need to stop buying and checking books off the list for a while!

    Sheila--You're welcome. Cutler is normally much more subtle than that, so it came as quite a shock. I still love her writing though--hoes or not!

    Jenclair--Same here. I really enjoyed the characters in this book, so I kept right on reading.

    Beth--I may take it as one of my newest missions: Get Judith Cutler on American mystery readers' radar!

    Rhapsody--She is!!!

    Wisteria--That was too easy. I'll have to give it another try with something else! :)

    Avis--Thanks for the mention on Friday Finds. I appreciate it! As for Cutler, if you enjoy historicals, I'd say read this one. Her Kate Power and Fran Harman series are also excellent.

    Natalie--For an author who writes so wonderfully of the present day, I was very very pleasantly surprised with how she handled this historical. (I hope I didn't just insult her!)


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