A Cozy Seaside Mystery of a Missing Mother.
NO LIFE FOR A LADY
by Hannah Dolby
"Lying was utterly wicked, of course, but sometimes being a female requires it."
No Life for a Lady is full of deliciously complex characters who, at first glance, seem typically two-dimensional, as can sometimes be the case when reading cozies. However, the author, Hannah Dolby, masterfully pulls the reader in by expertly layering her story so you cannot help but want to read more.
The year is 1896, and Violet Hamilton is a twenty-eight-year-old spinster. Her life and prospects ground to a halt when her mother disappeared almost ten years prior. (Not that it matters much to her, for she has vowed never to marry). Her father, convinced that her mother has left them, pretends like she never existed, but Violet cannot. Unsatisfied that the local authorities did a thorough investigation, she employs Frank Knight, a private detective. However, their meetings leave her with a sense of unease, so she seeks out a second opinion. Unfortunately, her second option, Benjamin Blackwood, is now a furniture dealer. So it looks like it's up to Violet to solve the case.
This was a debut novel, and what a debut it was! I cannot recall ever reading a historical fiction, cozy mystery comedy before, and it's a damn shame. It deserves its own (sub?) subgenre. This book was enjoyable from its first pages to the last. It tackles unpleasant and delicate subject matter, such as sexism, agency, and loss, with shrewd and quippy acknowledgment. I hope Hannah Dolby isn't finished with Violet Hamilton as a character because I would love to read more about her Lady Detective escapades.
Violet is a paradox, a product of her time and upbringing. In some regards, she is rigid by even the day's standards, valuing propriety and primness. In other ways, our protagonist steamrolls over societal norms. It's captivating to watch her character growth as she finds her voice. The narrative is so well done, as well. There's plenty of misdirection, but like any well-written mystery, it allows the reader to play detective, giving clues along the way. While I have many thoughts on this book (and all of them good), in an effort not to give away the plot, all I will say is I highly recommend this book.
If you are searching for a book full of adventure and self-discovery layered with witty social commentary, this is a perfect read.
No Life for a Lady will be released on January 24, 2023.