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Petty Treason: A Sarah Tolerance Mystery    by Madeleine E. Robins order for
Petty Treason
by Madeleine E. Robins
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This second Sarah Tolerance mystery is a sequel to Point of Honour. Sarah, who eloped as a teenager with her fencing master but never married him, refuses to take the usual path expected of a Fallen Woman (that is, to become a whore) and instead works as an Agent of Inquiry in 1810 London, a time when Queen Charlotte acts as Regent for mad King George III. Sarah lives in a cottage at the back of her aunt Brereton's exclusive Manchester Square mansion brothel, where she often dines and chats with her good friend Marianne, one of her aunt's employees.

This time, Sarah is hired by Mr. Colcannon to look after his sister Anne's interests, when her French emigré husband, a civil servant, is murdered in their home. When Sarah investigates, she discovers that Chevalier Etienne d'Aubigny took pleasure in sadistic sex and regularly abused his wife, whom the police seem to view as the prime suspect. D'Aubigny was a reckless gambler and Sarah wonders how he was able to pay his debts. Another actor in this drama is Madame Camille Touvois, at whose salon the royal Duke of Cumberland is introduced to the accomodating Josette Vose, once d'Aubigny's mistress.

Sarah fervently champions Anne d'Aubigny's cause, despite being attacked and later almost burned alive in her home. She often dresses as a man to investigate and luckily is adept with both sword and pistol, so is able to fight back effectively when needed - and it is after the plot thickens with blackmail, murder, French spies, and connections to the highest levels of London society. Though the cover blurb compares Sarah to Buffy, I found little in common between the series. If anything I'd compare Sarah's character more to a historical V. I. Warshawski. She's an admirable character, starring in an entertaining historical series.

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