RIP CHALLENGE: the Keeper of Secrets by Judith Cutler
The Keeper of Secrets by Judith Cutler is basically the anti-Sebastian St. Cyr novel though both are set during the Regency. While the St. Cyr novels deal with an overtly grizzly society and mix the horrors of the outskirts with the vicious underbelly of London; Tobias Campion and friends are nestled in shrouded Moreton St. Jude: a village seemingly outset from the crimes of urban centre….
Tobias Campion is a young minister who has recently stepped into clerical role in the small country parish of Moreton St. Jude. Relinquishing his family’s rich status and devoting himself to a higher calling, Toby is confused by the sinister under-workings of the seemingly small and well-functioning town.
Together with his servant Jem and the delightful Dr. Hansard, Toby is forced to utilize his intuition, integrity and deductive skills to solve whether or not one Lord of the Manor was killed by accident and the gruesome murder of a young maid with whom Tobias ( minister or not ) was completely smitten.
The book is wracked with social commentary and minutiae on daily life in rural Regency England. This is the coziest of historical tea cozies and, like the best detective stories, the murder and mystery take second precedent to the charm of daily life and the excellent, if soft-handed, characterization of the village people.
Rather than spouting facts about the Regency period and some of its social inequalities and atrocities, Cutler, instead, couches her humane and inspiring story within the confines of Regency setting. You do not feel you are reading a historical novel because you are so very much involved in the historical novel.
The people and places and little happenstances of every day life are what colour the outlines of this superbly-written mystery.
Though set a century-and-some before, Cutler’s tale reminded me very much of Foyle’s War: another character piece where murder is sewn into the fabric of society and daily life in Hastings, as daily life in Moreton St. Jude, is painted in unobstructed colour. All of the characters are easy to emotionally invest in and the tale plays out in vividly relatable circumstance.