Review: On a Desert Shore (John Chase/Penelope Wolfe Regency Mysteries #4) by S. K. Rizzolo

Protecting an heiress should be an easy job for experienced Bow Street Runner John Chase.

But the heiress in question isn’t just any heiress. She is the illegitimate daughter of wealthy merchant Hugo Garrod and his Jamaican slave.

Unlike many illegitimate children of wealthy English merchants, Marina is educated and positioned to marry well in English high society but yet she excludes herself and has essentially failed to integrate as successfully as her father had hoped.

Hugo Garrod seems to think that he has discovered why Marina is acting so strange and isolating herself from English society. Someone has been playing tricks on the young Marina. And those tricks recall her island heritage of Obeah.

Fearful for his daughter, Garrod hires John Chase to determine whether Marina is indeed a victim—or is herself a delusional and malicious trickster.

If it isn’t Marina herself then who would do such a thing to Marina? Could it be her rejected suitor and cousin Ned Honeycutt? His demure sister? Their devoted aunt who acts as the Garrod housekeeper? A clergyman friend?

Meanwhile Mrs. Penelope Wolfe makes a living by writing. Hugo Garrod invites her to join his household and put her pen to work. Her assignment takes her into an exotic world where menace lurks at every turn. To solve the case, Chase must grasp the enigma of Marina, an expert in self-concealment, who challenges his assumptions and confronts him with difficult truths. And, with the aid of Penelope and Edward Buckler, Chase must reveal a clever killer.

I’ve only read one other book in the John Chase/Penelope Wolfe mysteries and that was the third book of the series. I didn’t feel completely lost when I started the third book, but I will say that inevitably as the series goes on, it’s clear that having a full understanding of the previous books and characters is helpful.

Penelope, Edward and John (obviously) are all in other books in the series and they each have background stories that Rizzolo referenced throughout this book as well. While I didn’t feel overly lost in the book, it was clear that this was a series whose characters had history together. Having read the third book I felt better equip to follow along but at times I felt like I was missing parts of the backstory.

On the whole, Rizzolo did a nice job at orientating the reader within the series because I felt like she gave enough back story for those reading this as a standalone to navigate the story and bond with the characters but at the same time there were parts where I felt like I was missing some things which would have been nice to have. So while this book would read fine as a standalone, I think reading the books as a series would be much more rewarding!

This is an intelligent read with complex characters. As a reader, you have to pay attention for plot clues….this mystery is definitely a puzzle so you need to be an active reader so that you don’t miss anything. I also really enjoyed the ‘exotic’ feel of the book as a whole. I feel like the whole Regency era abroad is an untapped setting. The historical details about the Jamaicans and the English was very interesting and again something that isn’t necessarily explored in traditional literature. I loved that the book had Caribbean ties and yet much of it was still set in England. For me as a reader this was a real treat and I loved reading something different and unique that not only made me think but also took me some place different!

If you enjoy smart mysteries with historical elements then this is a great series to start with! I really enjoyed reading this unique Regency mystery!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: On a Desert Shore (John Chase/Penelope Wolfe Regency Mysteries #4) by S. K. Rizzolo 

  • Kindle Edition, 259 pages
    Published March 1st 2016 by Poisoned Pen Press
  • Review copy provided by: Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: Historical fiction, adventure, Regency era

Memorable lines/quotes: NA

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