Rating: 4 1/2 stars
With her debut novel, “A Murder in Time,” Julie McElwain establishes her place as a solid writer who can combine a mystery story with a time-travel twist and some romance thrown in. It’s an unusual trio, but McElwain makes it work.
Kendra Donovan, the protagonist, is a brilliant FBI agent. She was a precocious child who entered college as a young teenager, and she was the youngest person to join the FBI in its history. When during a raid, half her team is killed because of a mole, Kendra decides to track down the person responsible. He cooperates, and is not prosecuted. But this villain caused the deaths of her friends and partners, and Kendra is determined to make him pay.
She follows him to England to kill him, but in an unexpected turn of events, while running up a hidden stairway, Kendra is thrown two hundred years into the past. She is now in England, in a country manor home, in the year 1815.
It’s right then that a murder victim is discovered at the manor home during a house party — a series of days at the country home with entertainment and socializing. Kendra has upended the household with her sudden appearance — from nowhere — and she doesn’t really fit in anywhere. She doesn’t have the skill to be a lady’s maid and can’t bring herself to act subservient — when the young “ladies” are silly and ignorant and cruel. And she doesn’t fit in with the lower staff either because Kendra has no skills in the kitchen. But the Duke, a dabbler in science, is intrigued by Kendra and her forthright manner (and everyone can’t understand her short haircut). Of course, when the Duke questions her about which ship brought her to England from America, Kendra has no idea what to say. She certainly can’t explain that she flew over the ocean two hundred years in the future.
She is allowed to stay, and when more murder victims are found, Kendra, who specialized in profiling with the FBI, is able to use her talents, albeit in a more simple time. She has no DNA kits or even fingerprints at her disposal. No computers. She must determine who the killer is before he kills again.
Unwillingly, those around her come to respect her for her brilliance, and soon she is closing in on the identity of the killer. But the killer feels the pressure, and he is determined to stop Kendra before she can stop him.
The story is difficult to put down, and Kendra’s character is well written. The romance — which both parties try to avoid — is believable. And Kendra’s decision at the end is believable, as well. This is a great choice for a book club or for anyone who enjoys a mystery with many suspects and some heart-rending scenes.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Pegasus Crime for review purposes.