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I received this book for free from a book tour. This review is voluntary. My opinion is not influenced in any way.Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell
Series: A Quaker Midwife Mystery #2
Published by Midnight Ink on April 8, 2017
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction
Source: a book tour
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When Hannah Breed confides to midwife Rose Carroll that she’s pregnant out of wedlock, Rose promises to help her through the pregnancy and figure out a way to break the news to her family. But that night, amid the noise and revelry of the Independence Day fireworks, Hannah is found shot dead.
After a former slave and fellow Quaker is accused of the murder, Rose delves into the crime, convinced of the man’s innocence. An ill-mannered mill manager, an Irish immigrant, and the victim’s young boyfriend come under suspicion even as Rose’s future with her handsome doctor suitor becomes unsure. Rose continues to deliver babies and listen to secrets, finally focusing in on the culprit only to be threatened herself.
(Note: a version of this post first appeared on the Jungle Red Writers blog.)
What Was Happening in 1888?
My Quaker Midwife Mysteries are set in 1888, which came about from a simple news story I read in our local paper in 2013. It described the Great Fire of 1888 in the mill town of Amesbury, Massachusetts, where I live. The fire, on the night before Good Friday, burned down many of the carriage factories – and Amesbury was world famous for producing graceful well-built carriages.
The town and neighboring Salisbury had been tussling about who was going to annex whom, so the municipal fire-fighting equipment hadn’t been updated. The fire raged, spreading to the telegraph and post offices, so they couldn’t send for help to other larger towns. Only an overnight rain helped reduce some of the damage.
I was walking to Quaker Meeting one Sunday morning after reading that article and a short story about a Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the Carriage Fire arson popped into my head. Poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier had a bit part in the story, too. And now I have a five-book contract for a series featuring Whittier, that mill girl, and her aunt Rose Carroll, our midwife-sleuth protagonist.
The first book in the Series, Delivering the Truth, features the Great Fire – and is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery this year!
It turns out 1888 is a really interesting time in which to set stories, even though I came upon it by accident. The germ theory of infection was beginning to be known, so Rose washes her hands a lot, and most babies were still born at home with midwives. There’s a recently built hospital across the river where Rose’s beau David Dodge practices medicine, and it even has the new chain-pull toilets.
Electricity was around, although it wouldn’t have been used in my midwife’s modest home. The first successful electric street railway was opened in Richmond, Virginia in 1888 by Frank Sprague, but the horse-drawn trolley in Amesbury didn’t get electrified until 1890.
Similarly, some of Rose’s more well-off clients had telephones in their homes – but not Rose. She relies on the twice-daily mail service to communicate, or pays a passing boy to deliver a note for her.
George Eastman perfected the Kodak box camera in 1888, the first camera designed to use roll film. I wonder if George might not pay a visit to Amesbury in my next book! And speaking of pictures, Thomas Edison filed a patent for the first motion picture camera that same year.
It’s been interesting researching police procedure of the era. Fingerprinting wasn’t yet used, nor was the technology to identify the exact weapon a bullet had been fired from. They didn’t know about blood typing yet, either.
The International Council of Women met for the first time in Washington, DC in 1888. Women leaders representing 53 women’s organizations from 9 countries gathered to advocate for human rights for women. Susan B. Anthony presided over half the sessions, and Rose Carroll’s mother, a women’s suffrage activist, attended.
The Great Blizzard of 1888 had raged just a few weeks before Delivering the Truth opens in early April. The storm paralyzed the east coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, shut down the railroads, and kept people confined to their homes for a week. Rose needed to strap on snowshoes to attend a birth after the storm ebbed.
In terms of Called to Justice, a statue in downtown Amesbury was dedicated on Independence Day. A well-off local carriage manufacturer sponsored the statue of Josiah Bartlett, an Amesbury native and the second signer of the Declaration of Independence. The book opens at the 4th of July parade just preceding the dedication.
What else happened in 1888? Jack the Ripper was leaving bodies around London, and Brazil abolished the last remnants of slavery. In America, the National Geographic Society was founded, the Washington Monument was opened to the public, a 91-centimeter telescope was first used at Lick Observatory in California, and Grover Cleveland won the popular vote for President but lost the electoral college vote to Benjamin Harrison. Of those events, the last is the only one that would have affected Rose’s life. In fact, the third Quaker Midwife Mystery, Turning the Tide, takes place during the Presidential election week!
Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell transports us back to 1888 and takes place in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Rose is an intelligent character who I was easily able to relate to, even without reading the first book in this series. It was wonderful to escape back in time and enjoy this well-written mystery. With enough plot twists to keep me guessing, this engaging historical mystery is sure to please fellow mystery lovers. I enjoyed this one so much that I have requested the first book in the series through my library.