Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Crime Fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 2012
Source: Copy provided by publisher
The Short Version:
Mid-17th century crime fiction highlighting the law charging unwed mothers with murder for concealing the death of a newborn.
Why I Read It:
It sounded like an intriguing combination of crime fiction and historical fiction.
In mid-17th Century England the law calls for any unwed woman who conceals the death of her illegitimate infant to presumed to have murdered the child.
Rachel Lockyer works in a glove makers shop. When her employer finds her burying something in the woods and later discovers the body of an infant, Rachel comes under the scrutiny of criminal Investigator Thomas Bartwain. It is his job to determine if Rachel’s case should go to trial.
The story of his investigation and subsequent trial follows not only Rachel and the investigator but also the leaders of a political group called “Levellers’ that Rachel met through her brother. Rachel’s love story plays out amid the background of the turbulent times following the execution of Charles I when Cromwell and the army ruled England.
I enjoy a bit of historical fiction in between my many crime fiction books and this one was an intriguing mix of both. It took me a while to get fully involved in the story but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Part of the reason is that Rachel is in many ways a pawn of both the legal system and the political agenda of the Levellers.
I liked Bartwain’s wife and the way she kept prodding her husband to question the decisions he felt he had to make. His development was a very interesting part of the story to me. Although this book is presented as Rachel’s story I found the storyline of her investigator to be the most interesting part.
The women in this story are strong, yet limited by society and the law. This part of the book is what I think would make it an excellent book club choice. While it takes place over 300 years ago there is much in this book that can be discussed in terms of present day issues.
I enjoyed the historical context of the story and it prompted me to seek out more information about the Levellers and some of the characters based on real people. I consider that to be a positive feature of a historical novel. Again the comparison to present day political movements would make for good discussion.
The mystery of what really happened to the child is finally revealed but to me the bigger and more interesting part of the story was already over. I’d call this one historical fiction with a side of legal thriller.