‘Betrayal in Time’ by Julie McElwain is a wonderful mystery/scifi/historical fiction novel

betrayal in time

“Betrayal in Time” by Julie McElwain is the fourth novel in which Kendra Donovan, a 21st century FBI agent, is unwittingly sent to the past while trying to avenge the deaths of  most of her team. Her goal is to kill the culprit in England. When someone beats her to the kill, she escapes up a staircase and ends up in 1815, in England.

Now a friend of the Duke of Aldridge, she has helped solve several murders thanks to her skills as an FBI behavioral analyst. One murder was personal because Alec, the nephew of the duke, was accused of murder, and Kendra and he are in love. While he wants to marry Kendra, she still hopes to return to the future, where she has a career and the independence to do what she wants. The 19th century rules and prohibitions chafe at her independent nature.

In this book, a politician, Sir Giles Holbrooke, is murdered in an especially gruesome manner. His body is found naked with his tongue cut out, and there are marks all over his body which are only visible when exposed to heat. What do the mysterious symbols mean? Why was Sir Giles’ tongue cut out? Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly has worked with Kendra in the past and knows that she and the duke would be invaluable in solving this murder.

When a second victim is found, Kendra tries to solve the mystery of what ties them together. Will she be able to find the killer before there are more killings? And who among the suspects is the most dangerous?

In this story, McElwain builds on the romance between Alec and Kendra, but as an adjunct to the mystery plot. There is also the pleasant surprise of Kendra’s success as a young woman of the time when she is invited to the social club called Almack’s, the most exclusive assembly room in London. Kendra is not pleased, but the duke’s sister, Lady Atwood, is thrilled with Kendra for the first time. While the duke and Alec are the only two who know about Kendra’s journey from the future, Rebecca, the daughter of one of the duke’s close friends, has become Kendra’s close friend. Rebecca is unlike other young women of the time because when she was young she contracted smallpox, which left her with disfiguring facial scars. As a result, she has little interest in attending balls and parties where she will be asked to dance strictly out of pity. But she is fascinated by Kendra’s ability to solve the murders and becomes determined to help her whenever she can.

McElwain does a marvelous job balancing the plot of the murder mystery with the humorous situation of a capable, hard-nosed FBI agent stuck in a time where women are to be coddled and protected. The history is fascinating, the dialogue snappy, and the action constant. It’s a joy reading each book, but be sure to start with the first one, “A Murder in Time,” to understand how the series begins. Continue with “A Twist in Time” and “Caught in Time” and then jump into this novel.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Pegasus Crime, for review purposes.

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