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A Little Death    by Laura Wilson order for
Little Death
by Laura Wilson
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2000 (1999)

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

A Little Death is the very promising first novel of British author Laura Wilson. It is definitely not the usual mystery, with either police protagonist or amateur sleuth, but rather one with many psychological underpinnings . It is somewhat in the mode of Minette Walters' works, but with its own style.

The mystery slowly draws in the reader, who becomes more and more involved with the characters. It spans the time from the late Victorian era of the 1890's in the countryside through World War I, 1920's London and later World War II London. The reader knows from the beginning of an awful crime that has occurred in 1955 involving the three main protagonists, although not the why of it. Then skillfully using the perspective of all three characters, Wilson takes us back to the 1890's when Georgina and Edmund Lomax were rich children living in an affluent country home, and Ada was a household servant.

The Lomax household is not a happy one, especially after a tragic and suspicious accident kills Georgie and Edmund's brother Freddie. The repercussions of this echo throughout the book. Georgie is a memorable character who makes up her own rules for life and believes the others exist to be her servants. Yet she draws people to her and tangles their lives in her web. Ada is the strongest of the three people, but she also becomes irrevocably tied to Georgie.

A Little Death depicts the same world seen in Upstairs, Downstairs and the more recent Gosford Park, where the class system is in full force and servants are treated as lesser mortals. It also shows the devastating effect that the privilege of the upper class has on weaker people's self-determination, so that many feel they have no control of their destiny.

The book can be painful to read but is also mesmerizing as it progresses through the suspicous death of Georgie's husband in the 1920's to the final tragedy. It is almost like watching a train wreck about to happen and not being able to avert your eyes. A Little Death was nominated for an Edgar by the Mystery Writers of America. Hopefully Wilson will soon publish another novel to follow up this very auspicious start to her writing career.

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