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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Bilson

The Sign of Death by Callie Hutton

Having read A Study in Murder, the first book in this series, and quite liked it, I was keen to see what Lady Amy Lovell and her sort-of beau, Lord William Wethington get up to this time. The story starts promisingly, with William’s intuition pricking at him that something isn’t right, before his man of business not only turns up dead, but turns out to be a scoundrel who has dragged William’s name into disrepute… and William himself is now a prime suspect in the man’s murder.

Amy and William have good reason to mistrust the police, so immediately begin their own investigation. The plot rattles along pretty smartly this time (boring time skips where nothing happens were a peeve of mine about the first book) but… there is also a lot of fluff and filler. Amy’s badly trained dog who turns out to be pregnant, for example. But it never seems to occur to Amy to wonder who, and more importantly, what breed the father is. And since her dog is a tiny Pomeranian, that would seem fairly pertinent information.

The romance touched on in the first book comes to fruition here, but is only very lightly touched on still; we barely get any hint of feelings from either Amy or William other than that they are fond of and trust each other. The author would have done better to cut some of the fluff and put in some more emotion here; even when William was arrested, his mother reacts much more strongly than Amy, who doesn’t seem all that perturbed. I have to admit I also felt that William’s problems were very much of his own making; he trusted a complete stranger with all his money for two years and never troubled himself to glance away from his own amusements to check up on anything. No wonder the villain took advantage!

There’s also a dropped plot thread where Amy is struggling with writers’ block at the very beginning of the book, and NOT ONE of the many people they investigate inspires her to incorporate the slightest hint of their story in her book, and frankly, as a writer; sounds fake. I’m forever inspired by the fascinating people I meet. Amy, the successful mystery writer with five books to her name already, does not have a single successful writing session during the course of the book. (Again, as a writer… sounds fake).

There are snippets here I like. I like who Amy is as a person; I like that William wants her to have the freedom to be herself, and those are the reasons I bought into them as a romantic couple and wanted to see them have a bit more actual romance. This would be a lot better as a historical romantic suspense rather than a historical cozy mystery; cut the irrelevant fluff and replace with some genuine romance. As it stands, though, I’m not keen at all and I don’t think I’ll be looking for the next in the series. Three stars.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.

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