Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a twisty, engrossing historical fiction mystery/thriller set in 1881 Oxford that captured my attention from the start. The author developed two great characters in Basil Rice, an intelligent, nervous Jesus College fellow with a secret to hide (he’s gay), & Rhiannon “Non” Vaughan, a wickedly smart, fearless, outspoken, determined young Welsh woman newly admitted to university lectures at Jesus College.

An undergraduate is found dead with some shocking, & embarrassing, findings. His guardian threatens to cause a scandal, so the university president orders Basil to get to the bottom of it & protect the university. Non inserts herself into the investigation, much to the chagrin of everyone, but her keen insight & medical experience brings about several breaks in the case.

It was hard reading how easily everyone dismissed everything Non had to say & her observations & evidence. I definitely know that I could not have lived during that time period. We’ve still got equality issues to contend with, but back then it was so suffocating for women, who were told what to think, how to act, what to wear, who to marry & so many other things. Non was basically shunned because she had the audacity to be smart, think for herself & speak up for herself. I loved that she didn’t let anyone push her around, even though she knew it would only cause more trouble for her.

The mystery was multi-layered & even when it seemed the mystery was solved another aspect would come to light. This did make the book seem a bit long but considering this is the first book in a series, the author needed to provide some worldbuilding. If you like twisty mysteries with interesting characters and multi-layered plots, this is the book for you. I will definitely read more books in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Love Book Tours and Canelo Crime. All opinions are my own.