Book Review: Deception on Sable Hill, Shelley Gray, Zondervan, 2015
Deception on Sable Hill is a delightful romantic mystery set in Chicago in 1893. Eloisa Carstairs carries a heavy burden that she has been unwilling to share with anyone; when she meets police detective Sean Ryan he immediately understands that she is burdened and quickly guesses the nature of it. Despite vast social difference, they quickly form an attraction.
The Carstairs are at the peak of Chicago society. They are one of the wealthiest families in the city, and they come from old money that commands social respect. Mrs. Gray gives us beautiful descriptions of their mansion in the chicest neighbor as we walk from the butler-held door through the drawing room and into the solarium. Eloisa’s dresses are described in details that deliver a stunning mental picture. Yet we are also treated to a glimpse of the more common side of town when the Irish policeman goes to visit his mother’s and sister’s homes.
The timeless work of Jane Austen and the current hit television show Downton Abbey have schooled us on the social restrictions of European society in the nineteenth century. However, it’s easy for me to forget that American society also had similar restrictions and I was really drawn into this story as I see a very privileged young woman facing a prejudice as people saw only her family name and fortune but could not see who she was as a person. That’s a side of human judgement that we rarely inspect.
And all of this drama is woven around a series of attacks on beautiful debutantes. The police force is working hard to solve the mystery and catch the criminal and Lieutenant Ryan is at the head of the investigative team. Ryan’s partner, Owen Howard is a gentleman turned copper. There is one point where Detective Howard had a brush with the assailant and he seemed to sense something about him however that point is dropped as the story shifts back to the romantic perspective. It would have been very interesting to explore the investigative side of that scene. I’m sure the lieutenant would have debriefed his partner at some point, trying to find any neglected clue the hoodlum might have dropped.
Overall, this is a most entertaining novel. The romance is reasonably believable and the suspense is real enough to keep you turning the page until the attacker is captured.
I am happy to give Deception on Sable Hill four stars.
Zondervan, the publisher, provided a copy of this book for review purposes.