The Blackstone Key
Touchstone, Aug 2008, $14.00
In 1795, young Mary Finch realizes she has no prospects and with her family poor must take the only job she can as a teacher at Mrs. Bunbury’s School for Young Ladies. The thought of a future in hell makes Mary ill, but she has no other option.
When she receives an invitation from her estranged wealthy Uncle Edward to visit him, Mary jumps at the chance as she hopes he will help her improve her financial status though the rift between her parents and him has been over two decades long. Thus she rushes immediately from Cambridge to Ipswich and ultimately near Lindham in Suffolk, but from the onset the trip is not carefree or tedious. Even before leaving town a highly anticipated horse race in Newmarket interferes with the beginning of her journey. Along the way she meets a dying man who warns her to be careful as nothing is quite like it seems as freetrader smugglers, English operatives and the French work coastal Suffolk while the two countries are at war. Two brave men offer her protection; military expert Captain Holland and social charmer Mr. Déprez, but she wonders can she trust either of them?
This terrific historical fiction in some ways is a coming of age tale as naive sweet Mary receives quite an education from the start to the finish. The story line is fast-paced and vivid as 1795 England is brought to life. However, it is the support characters who Mary meets in her travels who turn THE BLACKSTONE KEY into a strong thriller. None are quite what Mary and the readers first believe they are as Rose Melikan provides a fully developed cast yet uses sleight of the hand to shrewdly fool the audience and heroine; this adds suspense as Mary begins to wonder who you trust if anyone. Fans will appreciate this deep late eighteenth century tale of intrigue.