Friday, May 18, 2007

Pg. 69: Cordelia Frances Biddle's "The Conjurer"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Cordelia Frances Biddle's The Conjurer.

About the book, from The Conjurer website:

Intrigue, passion and murder surround the suspicious disappearance of Philadelphia financier, Lemuel Beale, in the winter of 1842. A victim of accidental drowning, according to the local constabulary, Beale’s legacy is a sinister web of political and financial machinations, and a troubling relationship with his daughter, his only child. Unmarried at twenty-six in an era when women were expected to become brides before turning twenty, Martha Beale’s conflicted search for her father eventually emboldens and frees her, bringing her love in the person of Thomas Kelman, an assistant to Philadelphia’s mayor - and a man whose business is homicide investigation.

The inquiry into Beale’s disappearance uncovers connections between the city’s most affluent and its most destitute: an escaped inmate from the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary; the freed African-American prisoner, Ruth; the ritual slayings of several young girl prostitutes; and Eusapio Paladino, a conjurer and necromancer who claims to communicate with the dead.

Among the praise for The Conjurer:

"...juggling multiple plot lines and narrators, this debut entry in a new historical crime series is a feast for those fans who enjoy engaging characters and historical periods that have not been done to death. This may also attract readers who loved Caleb Carr's attention to detail in The Alienist and Jacqueline Winspeare's appealing sleuth, Maisie Dobbs."
- Library Journal

"... disparate yet interrelated story threads combine in an intricately orchestrated narrative that implicates the Brahmin class and the corruption that comes with their absolute power. Biddle wonderfully evokes the color and culture of the time."
Publishers Weekly

...appealing characters... a wealth of intriguing period detail

A first-rate mystery featuring rich period authenticity and beguiling characters, The Conjurer succeeds on all levels –as top-flight historical fiction, and as a classic whodunnit. Biddle’s voice is uniquely suited to pre-Civil-War Philadelphia. This one goes on my keeper shelf!
– Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of All Mortal Flesh
Visit Cordelia Frances Biddle's website and read an excerpt from The Conjurer.

The Page 69 Test: The Conjurer.

--Marshal Zeringue