The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #2
Published by Brilliance Audio on October 6, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 10 hrs 15 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

There were several good things about The Sans Pareil Mystery. I enjoyed learning about the theater in London in 1810 and it is interesting to note that both the San Pareil Theater and the woman running it did actually exist. The mystery itself was okay, although the clues were not necessarily as noticeable as the big flashing arrows saying “this is s bad guy.” I like Lavender and Wood as a team, but Lavender seems older to me than young 30s, his attitudes and actions don’t necessarily fit. Or maybe the reader’s voice sounded older and that projected on to the main character? I had to remind myself that he was younger than I think. For the time period, it was also notable that women played central roles in the story, not just in the plot, but on the side-lines too. We meet women who have younger lovers, who support themselves and their household, who are brave, who are loyal, who are killers, who are willing to lie to save their own skins.

So, good mystery and a decent setting, London in the early 1800s is atmospheric and dirty, but a place and time that’s used extensively. I did like how Charlton used the Napoleonic Wars as an integral piece of the story and the conflict between Catholics and Anglicans was clear.

I didn’t like the love story between Lavender and Magdalena. I’m not against romance in a mystery, I just felt like those sexual tension scenes and off-screen sex were just not in keeping with the tone of the story. It felt like there was an asterisk beside those pieces that stated “see, I could write a romance if I wanted,” but it would be a melodramatic, slightly uncomfortable one. Maybe now that the relationship has settled a bit we can get back tot he mysteries. I hope in the next one, Lavender and Woods will head out of town, leave London and Magdalena for a while.

About Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher, Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.