Thursday, October 6, 2022

Andrea Penrose - Murder at the Serpentine Bridge

Charlotte, now the Countess of Wrexford, would like nothing more than a summer of peace and quiet with her new husband and their unconventional family and friends. Still, some social obligations must be honored, especially with the grand Peace Celebrations unfolding throughout London to honor victory over Napoleon.
But when Wrexford and their two young wards, Raven and Hawk, discover a body floating in Hyde Park’s famous lake, that newfound peace looks to be at risk. The late Jeremiah Willis was the engineering genius behind a new design for a top-secret weapon, and the prototype is missing from the Royal Armory’s laboratory. Wrexford is tasked with retrieving it before it falls into the wrong hands. But there are unsettling complications to the case—including a family connection.
Soon, old secrets are tangling with new betrayals, and as Charlotte and Wrexford spin through a web of international intrigue and sumptuous parties, they must race against time to save their loved ones from harm—and keep the weapon from igniting a new war . . .

Comment: This is the most recent installment in the Wrexford and Sloane series, released last month and one I agreed to read with a friend. If not, I probably would only get to it a bit later...

In this new story, Charlotte and Wrexford are now married and their relationship seems to be as stable as they planned, their connection pretty much at the same page. However, it seems the reasons why they met each other remain as necessary as ever, for they can't escape being in the middle of yet another murder investigation. This time, they feel they have to, for there are some hinted threats - even if slightly disguised - regarding Charlotte's pen work, as well as small connection to Charlotte's sister in law. Her sister is now in charge of a young boy, the new lord, but he isn't well received by many due to the color of his skin. Everything takes a turn when an uncle of that boy is murdered, perhaps because of an invention which could make someone very rich... but how can they know for certain all this is linked somehow?

I think this was a very predictable story in the series. It's true the nuances of the crime investigation change from story to story and the characters can be more or less important here and there, but at its base, this isn't a huge difference from the previous books. I suppose this can be seen as good, it's nice to know what one will get, but I also think now that most details are a given, the overall arc might be a little repetitive. 

I thought the change in the main protagonist's relationship would be much more important to the overall effect but I can see that the author is definitely focusing on the mystery side of things and not as much on the personal, which seemed to have had a bigger impact in the first and second book, when we were internally debating how far would the obvious closeness between them go. I can't tell if this means that, since this part of the series is accomplished, they will only remain a happy couple who share POVs and opinions, so the focus will always be on what case they deal with, being the rest superficial but... I kind of wish we could still have more importance given to their domestic life besides the obvious.

The secondary characters are still as lively as one would want and we see glimpses of where things are at with them, namely Cordelia and Sheffield, whom fans have come to like and want to see together. I think a good step has been taken in this book but we are only going to see how much in the next installment, so... some things are clearly happening only off page and while this wouldn't necessarily bother me, I kind of wish, again, that we could have a better ratio between action situations and domestic ones.

The murder investigation is a very obvious good vs bad thing. The murdered man is a beloved uncle to a by who inherited a title. The boy will be raised by family members until he becomes of age since his parents are deceased, and now this uncle as well. The uncle has contributed to a special invention, which will help many if well used, but the main use will likely be for war efforts and everyone knows this might be less than ideal on the wrong hands. I think the whole investigation was good enough, the step by step path and how many loose information becomes important when put together properly.

Nevertheless, I must say that while this was done well enough to make the story intriguing in general, there was still a lot I sort of read without much attention... I was more interested in the little things about the characters, their personal actions and thoughts, rather than paying enough attention to everything plot related. I knew this would all be explained anyway and some clues and how they were pursued meant scenes I wasn't always fascinated by, so I confess I wasn't too keen on who did what and why some things were that necessary to happen. 

I think fans will like this regardless of what feels better done or what could have been improved. I did like spending time with the characters and in this world, but my dedication certainly doesn't feel as urgent now as it was while I was going through the first one...
Grade: 7/10

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