The Scandalous Ladies themselves from left to right:
Dour Elinor, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Pocked Louisa, Smooth (Katherine) Kitty, Dull Martha, Stout Alice, and Dear Roberta
I'm so glad Jessica (HDB) read and reviewed this because I would have likely passed it by...when I knew it even existed! But I think this book was written for me and I'll have to own this very soon.
Seven young ladies at St. Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies are given an once in a life time opportunity: keep their family of sisters together and gain independence they could never get at their homes. All they have to do is pretend their Headmistress is still in charge. She's not, you see, because she and her brother both died over Sunday dinner, poisoned by their veal. Smooth Kitty keeps them together and by hook or by crook (and by burying the two of them in the back garden) they should be able to keep this charade going. This is comedy of errors meets Agatha Christie and I enjoyed every minute.
The setting, characters, and plot were all exceptional. The author clearly had done her research and it didn't surprise me she'd actually traveled to Ely; the place came alive the more I read. But it was how she handled the student particularly that made me love this book. The girls are named for their main personality trait - Dour Elinor, Disgraceful Mary Jane, etc. - and that's how they are refereed to constantly. Oh no one calls them that but in the text, they are never without their description. I loved that wink, the slight satire of the time period. Each girl also embodies different aspects - not always good ones - women at the time embodied in contemporary literature.
The rest of the characters were memorable and seemed to do everything in their power to hinder the girls. I will confess, I guessed a decent amount of the mystery - who did it and most of why - as well as the side mystery of who the mysterious young man was. But that didn't matter, indeed it felt even more as if I was in on the author's joke and just read faster to see it all come together. You know it can't continue, the entertainment is seeing how quickly and more importantly, how spectacularly it's going to all come apart.
I could literally gush for pages about this book, but I'll try to rein it in. Poor LL has already heard tons about this book.
The ending was everything I could hope but feared there was no way it could happen. One of the ways to become a great author, in my eyes at any rate, is to push your character(s) to the point I can see no way out and then do so in a believable way. Julie Berry does this sublimely and I'll definitely watch out for more from her.
Believable characters I feel in love with, a wonderful hilarious murder mystery, and a well researched Victorian setting made this a book I couldn't help but love. I'm still suffering from a book hangover.
Do you think the library would notice if they didn't get this back?
I found a wonderful book trailer for this but it contains slight spoilers (nothing major but they are there). So you've been warned but do watch it; it's amazing.