Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
I killed a man today, and although I didn't mean to do it, I must confess that it wasn't unpleasant at all.
I suppose some might call it murder, but is it really murder if the victim deserved it? If he was especially irritating?
Unfortunately, most societies frown upon this thing called murder, so I suppose I shall have to reinvent myself. Again. If only one could declare the deceased an obnoxious bore or an unrepentant fool and be done with it, there wouldn't be quite so much fuss.
After completing Christine Trent's new book, No Cure For the Dead, I decided that I needed to try her series featuring a Victorian era woman who is an undertaker by profession. Yes, this author does research some interesting and dark aspects of that most famous era. In Lady of Ashes, we are introduced to Violet Morgan and her husband, Graham. Actually, these two make a very brief appearance in No Cure For the Dead, which takes place a few years before. Graham Morgan is the proprietor of Morgan Undertaking, a family business. And Violet definitely has an affinity for the care and concern that is necessary to work with families who are grieving - plus deal with dead bodies. I was caught up in the historical detail of Lady of Ashes. Christine Trent has definitely done her research on Victorian society. There is an Author Note at the end of the book which points out more info about events and also tells what she changed to fit her story.
I did like Violet Morgan a lot. Graham Morgan - not so much. I learned all kinds of things about not only the customs for funerals and mourning in the 1800's, but there was a lot of talk about other historical events at the time. The reader learns about the American Civil War and how the British government viewed that conflict. Violet meets Prince Albert at one point and makes a positive impression on him. After Albert's death, she is summoned by Queen Victoria and required to help with his funeral. There are also anonymous diary entries included that are written by a killer, but who? The book was a little long, but I barely noticed. I'm looking forward to continuing the series which has six books. The next is Stolen Remains and I suspect it will be appearing on my Kindle soon.
Only a woman with an iron backbone could succeed as an undertaker in Victorian London, but Violet Morgan takes great pride in her trade. While her husband, Graham, is preoccupied with elevating their station in society, Violet is cultivating a sterling reputation for Morgan Undertaking. She is empathetic, well-versed in funeral fashions, and comfortable with death's role in life--until its chilling rattle comes knocking on her own front door.
Violet's peculiar but happy life soon begins to unravel as Graham becomes obsessed with his own demons and all but abandons her as he plans a vengeful scheme. And the solace she's always found in her work evaporates like a departing soul when she suspects that some of the deceased she's dressed have been murdered. When Graham's plotting leads to his disappearance, Violet takes full control of the business and is commissioned for an undertaking of royal proportions. But she's certain there's a killer lurking in the London fog, and the next funeral may be her own.