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Murders and Other Confusions    by Kathy Lynn Emerson order for
Murders and Other Confusions
by Kathy Lynn Emerson
Order:  USA  Can
Crippen & Landru, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Nina de Angeli

Fans of Kathy Emerson's series of seven novels featuring Susannah, Lady Appleton, '16th Century Gentlewoman, Herbalist , and Sleuth' (beginning with Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie), will enjoy these eleven stories set into the times before and between the novels, with the same continuing characters. The stories are well-crafted, full of fascinating historical tidbits, and work well even for readers not familiar with the series.

In the first story, we meet Susannah as a young lady in waiting before her marriage in 1552, when she finds herself called upon to solve a murder in her guardian's dovecote. A few years later, in Much Ado About Murder, visiting Shakespearean characters Beatrix and Benedict help Susanna hide her secret practice of the New Religion from her new husband and also solve another murder. The eleven stories, nine of which are set during the reign of Elizabeth I, take the reader to locations around England, except for The Rubaiyat of Nicholas Baldwin which introduces Susannah's merchant friend Nick in an exotic Persian adventure.

As Susannah, now Lady Appleton, matures, she becomes a well-known herbalist, publishing a book on poisonous plants. The Cautionary Herbal and Death by Devil's Turnip call upon her knowledge of herbs to solve dastardly crimes. In Confusions Most Monstrous, set in 1577, the widowed Susannah, stronger and more self-confident as she moves into middle age, must sort out violence brought on by thwarted lovers tangled in the convoluted marriage laws of the time.

As in her novels, Emerson's research is meticulous but never intrusive. Historical notes after each story give some of the facts behind the fiction. In each tale, the auhtor's smooth professional writing style carries the reader along into a colorful and detailed recreation of the early Elizabethan England.

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