Series: Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery #1
Genres: Historical Mystery
Published by Berkley on 4 November 2014
Reading Challenges: 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Most well-bred 19th century ladies would have an attack of vapours if their financial prospects suddenly turned bad but Ophelia Flax and Prue Bright are American actresses rather than ladies and are made of sterner stuff. Ophelia wheedles jobs as maids for them in a fantastical Black Forest castle complete with Snow White’s cottage. Things take a turn for the worst when their employer’s husband is poisoned and Prue becomes the main suspect.
Ophelia is a thoroughly unusual young lady and was a delight as a protagonist. Her chequered career as trick rider in the circus and Variety Hall actress serve her surprisingly well as a lady’s maid. Not even a murder or having to pander to her employer, the irascible Mrs Coop, can keep her down for long and her keen wit kept the novel from getting too serious.
Prue might be beautiful and have more adventures than Ophelia but she is hardly quick witted. Locked up for a crime she didn’t commit, she uses her feminine wiles on the gardener Hansel to repeatedly escape the tower she is incarcerated in. The burgeoning romance between the two is sweet but never overwhelms the plot.
Professor Gabriel Penrose is another odd duck with an unconventional background. He is a true believer when it comes to fairy tales but feels he has to publicly denounce them to keep the respect of his colleagues. Maintaining this façade became increasingly difficult when he realised that the so-called Snow White’s cottage he was sent to investigate was probably real. Ophelia and Gabriel compliment each other well and I hope we see more of them together in future novels.
Chance’s spin on the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White was entertaining and kudos to her for not taking the easy route and adopting significant aspects of the original. There are many sly references to the Grimm Brothers’ tales though and you’ll have to concentrate if you want to catch them all. Some of the obvious ones include Mr Coop being killed by a poisoned apple, an old crone and a lost slipper. The pace is fairly leisurely which works well as it gives us time to get to know the characters and get immersed in the story. My only minor quibble with the book was the sheer number of secondary characters that we were introduced to. They add flavour to the book and muddy up the suspect list nicely but it was a bit hard to keep everyone straight.
This is not a fairy tale retelling but rather a historical mystery with significant fairy tale aspects interwoven throughout. I heartily enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next in the series.