Death in a Scarlet Gown (Murray of Letho 1) by Lexie Conyngham

death in a scarlet gownMurder is academic…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Set in early 19th century Scotland, this very well written murder mystery takes place in the university town of St Andrews. The writer gives a convincing picture of how the students and academics lived and thought in post-Enlightenment society and works the beliefs and attitudes of the time skilfully through the story.

Charles Murray of Letho is an attractive hero. Just about to graduate, he is resisting his father’s attempts to get him to come home and concentrate on learning how to run their estate. When murder is committed, Charles isn’t willing to accept that the murderer might not be found and so sets out to investigate. This incurs his father’s wrath and, with his allowance cut off, Charles is thrown back on his own resources to fund his accommodation and continue with his studies.

St Andrews University
St Andrews University

Overall, I thought this first novel was a very good read. The descriptions of St Andrews and Edinburgh brought the places to life and the characterisation was strong throughout. Conyngham shows the lives of privileged and poor alike and is equally convincing with both. I felt the book lost a bit of momentum in the latter half, when too much time was spent on Charles considering all the various possibilities and motives. But it came together well at the end and overall it achieved a feeling of originality and freshness – not easy in such a crowded field.

There are a further three books to date in the series and in each Conyngham takes a look at a different look at aspects of Scottish society. For me, this one is the weakest in terms of plotting but the setting and historical context make it well worth reading. Although each book can stand alone, Charles’ personality and career progresses in each, so it’s worth reading them in order. Especially since at time of writing this one is available for £0.77 ($1.15 US) on Kindle! Oh, and $0.99 CDN…

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

13 thoughts on “Death in a Scarlet Gown (Murray of Letho 1) by Lexie Conyngham

  1. I’d heard this was a series worth reading and you’ve reminded me I should try it. I always admire authors who are able to create a strong sense of place and time in an historical mystery – and still tell the story of a crime. Thanks for putting this one ‘back on my radar.’

    • I think you’ll enjoy them – I like to ‘promote’ my fellow Scots when I get the chance! I ended up reading all four in a very short space of time, which is unusual for me. She keeps to the same period but moves the location in each so gradually she builds up a good picture of Scottish life at the time.

  2. I’ve just finished “Fellowship with Demons” and it is really excellent. Set in Edinburgh this time, and reminds me of how much of 18/19 century is still there. I’ll be interested in your review, when you get round to it.

    • Glad to hear that! I’m hoping to read it soon – next couple of weeks probably, or maybe earlier if I get fed up with reading too much ‘literature’… 😉

      It’s a shame the series isn’t getting a wider readership – I think they’re better than most of the currently popular ones.

      • Too Scottish, probably, and perhaps too literate. Also, a depiction of a society in which masters and servants care about each other runs counter to our current “everyone for himself” ethos.

        • Quite probably! It’s also to do with hype, though, I think, and how much publicity and marketing gets done. Look at Peter May – he trundled along for years with most people never having heard of him, till Richard and Judy picked The Blackhouse, and now suddenly everybody’s reading and enjoying him. It’s a complete lottery, and must be completely depressing for the authors.

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