A Bucket of Ashes: A Gilded Age Mystery
by P.B. Ryan
Cover Artist: Mary Ann Lasher
Review by Beth Slater
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425218730
Date: 04 December 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Sixth and final in Ryan's Gilded Age series, we return to the story of Nell Sweeney and her past; a past that is unfurling more quickly than she had planned. Normally set in Boston, Nell and the Hewitt family are vacationing at the Hewitt's summer cottage in Cape Cod. Nell is swimming with her young charge when she is suddenly blind-sided by her past -- the doctor who saved her life, took her in and educated her -- appears on the lawn of the Hewitt home. Dr. Cyril Greaves, absent for so many years, has appeared with horrible news for Nell -- but could it be a blessing in disguise?
Cyril has come to break bad news to Nell about her only surviving brother -- about whom her employers know nothing. Nell has kept the information of her pick-pocket days and jail-bound husband from them in order to make a better life for herself, and to stay with Gracie Hewitt. Gracie is Will Hewitt's daughter, but Nell has been her governess since infancy, and she is afraid that her highly questionable past will take it all from her -- if her possible secret pregnancy doesn't do it first. While worrying about the results of her single night of passion with Will, Nell finds that the charred body found nearby, could be that of her brother and worse -- that he was suspected of murder!
Once again Nell must find her way to the heart of the mystery, using connections she's made throughout the years she's spent in Boston solving other crimes. But will she be able to get the answers she needs to clear her brother's name and find the real murderer before her reputation -- the reputation she's worked years to build -- is torn to bits?
The series is set in Boston following the Civil War and each installment stands well on its own, but knowledge of the series does help in understanding the nuances. The plot is well built and acted out on the pages, and the characters will keep you glued to the pages to find out how all the pieces fit together.
This is a great cozy with a historical backdrop -- especially for those who enjoy a touch of romance in their mysteries. I enjoyed following the story of Nell, Will, and Gracie, and hope that Ryan is able to capture us with another mystery series just as captivating.