Books : reviews

Madeleine E. Robins.
The Stone War.
Tor. 1999

Madeleine E. Robins.
Point of Honour.
Tor. 2003

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 11 March 2011

Miss Sarah Tolerance (not her real name) is a Fallen Woman. She ran away from the schoolroom with the fencing master, and in Regency England, that means she has no choice except to become a whore. But she decides differently, and uses her wits, and her hard-won sword-fighting skills, to help her become an Agent of Inquiry: a private investigator to the nobility. Here she is called upon to find a missing fan for the Earl of Versellion, and what starts out as a relatively routine investigation rapidly turns into a tale of sordid politics, death threats, and murder.

I'm reviewing this as SF because I read it as SF (it's almost as if I was expecting a vampire or werewolf to appear, but it's nothing like that). Strictly, it is actually AH (Alternate History: King George III has gone mad, but it is Queen Charlotte who is Regent. So this is a "Regency" story, but an alternate Regency.) The Alternate bit is more than just a different regent: Sarah Tolerance is tolerated (hah!) more than she would have been in our Regency period, I'm sure. I kept wondering why anyone ever paid their bills to her (I'm sure she wouldn't have been able to force them to), and why she didn't suffer considerably more abuse from those she questioned and otherwise interacted with. So: fantasy. But once the disbelief has been willingly suspended, and the details of the AH embraced, this is a fun tale: a sort of "hard boiled Regency detective" tale, showing an extremely seedy side of London.

There's a twist at the end, but it wasn't the twist I was confidently expecting (to avoid explicit spoilers: I thought Sarah would end up killing the brown-eyed man). Sarah is intelligent, resourceful, and just enough put out and unhappy at the position she finds herself in not to be annoyingly perfect. I've ordered the next one in the series.

Madeleine E. Robins.
Petty Treason.
Tor. 2006

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 3 April 2011

Agent of Inquiry Sarah Tolerance has a new case: find the murderer of the Chevalier d'Aubigney, beaten to death in his bed, before the ponderous and prejudiced machinations of the law convict his abused wife.

More detection in a slightly alternate Regency reality, again on the seedier side of London. Sarah needs all her fencing abilities, both with words and with swords, to get to the bottom of the plot, which hides some deep secrets indeed. And there's another unexpected twist at the end.

I hope there will be more in this series (sadly none visible yet), as I want to find out more about Sarah, and more about the alternate Regency.

Madeleine E. Robins.
The Sleeping Partner.
Plus One Press. 2011

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 14 October 2012

In this third outing, Sarah Tolerance, Fallen Woman and Private Investigator in a slightly alternate Regency, is hired to find an eloped sister. Yet what is puzzling is that there seems to be no clue as to the identity of her lover. And Sarah is stunned to discover who her employer's husband is.

Another interesting slice of detection in a very seedy London, with a few additions to the ongoing arc of Sarah's life, too. This is a new publisher; I hope that means a continuation of the series as I would like to find out what trouble Sarah gets herself into next!