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A Bitter Chill    by Jane Finnis order for
Bitter Chill
by Jane Finnis
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Having read Jane Finnis' first historical mystery, I opened her second, A Bitter Chill, with anticipation of a good read. I was right. Innkeeper Aurelia Marcella and her sister Albia help their slaves prepare for the Saturnalia holiday in late December in 95 AD Roman Brittania. Aurelia prays to her various gods that they will have a slow time at the inn during the coming days as a respite from a busy year. That is not to be.

First, their brother Lucius sneaks home to tell the sisters he is on a secret mission to keep the family from being discredited by Caesar. Then a large party of influential persons arrives and takes over the inn. One of the new guests is fearful for his life, convinced he is to be murdered. The wife of the potential victim is trying to prevent what she considers an unsuitable marriage for her son, and trying to force him into one she considers suitable. To top it off, an attempt has been made to involve the inn in a protection racket. Family issues flare and tempers rise to breaking points. Kidnappings, ransom notes, a three hour eating orgy, a few murders, and various acts of mayhem fill the pages of this excellent reconstruction of the times.

History has always been a fascination of mine, but, I have to admit, I still learned a great deal from A Bitter Chill, which is full of great characters and a story line that kept me guessing 'til the end. Aurelia would have made it in today's world. Full of vinegar, and aware of her worth, she can make decisions and act on them. Only a touch of jealousy taints her perfection. This is a good read.

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