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Death on a Silver Tray    by Rosemary Stevens order for
Death on a Silver Tray
by Rosemary Stevens
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Death on a Silver Tray initiates a new mystery series set in Regency England during the first decade of the 19th century and featuring Beau Brummell. This time period is familiar from the well-loved classic Regency romances by Georgette Heyer, and from the books of many lesser imitators. However, Stevens has added a mystery element and a likeable new sleuth in society dandy Brummell. This book received the Malice Domestic 2001 Agatha Award for Best First Mystery.

Brummell is a historical character who was the arbiter of what was fashionable at the time among society's elite. At first he appears as quite superficial in the books and focussed excessively on clothes and furnishings. However, Stevens has cleverly given him an exotic Siamese cat, who provides a nice foil to the arbiter and humanizes him. Amusingly the cat seems to be just as fussy and discerning about the finer things in life as the Beau himself. Brummell is drawn into detection when his close friend Freddy, the Duchess of York, requests that he solve the murder of the cantankerous Countess of Wrayburn. Freddy's proteg9 Miss Ashton has been accused of the murder and must be cleared of involvement. Once Brummel starts investigating the Wrayburn household it becomes clear that many people wished the Countess dead, so it is a matter of determining which one actually committed the murder.

Stevens has painstakingly researched the Regency era ... when King George III was slowly going mad, Napoleon ran amok on the Continent and Prinny (the future George IV) eagerly awaited his accession to the throne. Fortunately this author does not make the mistake of many writers who, in love with their time period, include too much detail. She uses just enough information to provide a fascinating back drop to the mystery. The time period appears to be a decadent one for the wealthy, but perilous for the less fortunate. This is revealed through an interesting minor character, the daughter of the police inspector, who runs an establishment for unfortunate women who have been fired by their wealthy employers after they have impregnated them.

All in all, Death on a Silver Tray is a enjoyable start to a new mystery series with a likeable detective in a fascinating time and setting. For those who want an escape from modern, harder core mysteries, it is the perfect book.

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