Bellfield Hall: Or, The Deductions of Miss Dido Kent (Dido Kent #1)
by Anna Dean
Release Date: February 2, 2010
2010 Minotaur Books
Hardcover Edition; 300 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
(Previously released in the U.K. in 2008)
3.5 / 5 Stars
On a mild September evening at the country manot of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, an engagement ball is being thrown for his son, Richard, and his elegant fiancee, Catherine. Midway through a dance, a man materializes at Richard's shoulder and appears to communicate nothing to him. Richard is visibly upset, and, bringing his fiancee out onto the terrace, he abruptly breaks off the engagement. The next morning he has vanished. Distraught with worry, Catherine summons her aunt, Miss Dido Kent, to Bellfield to help track down her fiance.
But as Dido arrives to comfort her niece, the residents of Bellfield suffet yet another shock: the body of a murdered woman is found on the property. Coud the two strange incidents be related?
While I enjoyed reading Bellfield Hall and found the characters to be somewhat interesting, I found the mystery to be fairly predictable and overall, I really thought there was a lot of room to develop the characters and the storyline. I found the daily life of the characters during the time period to be rather interesting, but at the same time, I sometimes felt like some of the storylines were thrown in for no reason than to give Dido an opportunity to discover more information and it felt a little contrived rather than flowing smoothly from scene to scene.
Miss Dido Kent is one of the bright lights in this novel, as her sly, witty, and bold manner makes her interesting and unconventional during this time period. More than once, remarks were made about her "satirical" observational skills, and through her we get a sense of the author's views on entailment and inheritances, women, marriage, and spinsterhood during this time period. While she has the appearance of being smart and clever, she did miss some rather obvious clues to the mystery that did make me want to shake her a few times as they were so obvious. I was also shaking my head over the storyline with the Colonel and the servant boy because I couldn't understand how Dido just didn't understand the implications of what was happening with that scenario and I wondered if that was the author's way of showing the readers how innocent some of the women were during this time. And yet, the author is very ambiguous when it comes to women and their knowledge and this is demonstrated with the games the two Harris girls are playing against the men in order to avoid marriage. I don't want to say any more about the situation or I will give away an important plot point, but in one sense the author is showing how intelligent and knowledgeable women are when it comes to society and in another, she is showing that women are fairly naive and it's a bit of a conundrum.
Ms. Dean's writing is very engaging and I enjoyed the letter writing to Dido's sister that is found in many chapters, but for me, the big issue was the lack of difficulty in solving the mystery. I guessed fairly early on what the big secret was for Richard, and it took some of the pleasure of reading away from the novel because I could guess what was going to happen. I prefer a mystery that has more twists and turns in it, where I am confused and really don't know what is going on, or who is guilty. I also had an issue with the bit of 'romance' that developped toward the end, although I did see it coming, even though the man involved was not around very much. I was a little disappointed in this romance and would have liked to have seen a bit more development in that regard, but perhaps there will be more in the next novel.
Bellfield was an enjoyable, if predictable, beginning to a new series featuring an engaging, witty, and satyrical new character. I really feel like this series has a lot of room to grow and a lot of potential, and I look forward to learning more about the characters as the series develops. Look for more adventures of Miss Dido Kent in Gentleman of Fortune and Women of Consequence. I, for one, am definitely going to be reading the next few books in this series.