In revolutionary Boston, founding father, John Adams, is falsely accused of murder, and his brilliant and beautiful wife Abigail needs the help of the British in her effort to clear his name and identify the killer.
“Life on Queen Street was one continuous domestic crisis, with brief breaks for meals and church on Sunday.” The charm of The Ninth Daughter, by Barbara Hamilton, glows in this sort of gentle humor, and it sparkles in the brief glimpses into seventeenth century everyday life. “By this hour, Fish Street was a lively confusion of carts and drays coming up from the docks, of pungent smells and the clattering of hammers: shoemakers, coopers, smiths in silver and iron.”
Barbara Hamilton is a pseudonym for Barbara Hambly, author of dozens of fantasy and mystery novels, novellas, short stories, screenplays and graphic novels, including: Those Who Hunt in the Night, Dragonsbane, A Free Man of Color, and Bride of the Rat God.
Hamilton fictionalizes Abigail Adams as a reluctant amateur sleuth who rarely goes out without a male escort. She bravely tracks down a serial killer in 1773 Boston, on the eve of the Tea Party. It was a tempestuous time when control of this city was shared between the legitimate government, the British Army, John Hancock’s circle of smugglers, and Samuel Adams’s organized mob. She was wife to John Adams, a man who played a major role in the American Revolution and Constitution, before becoming the nation’s second president. She is the most remembered of founding mothers because of her many letters to her husband, with highly intellectual discussions of government and politics. Abigail was a bold, educated and influential, and a strong advocate of the vote for women.
In 9th Daughter, Abigail is not a modern feminist transported back in time, and only occasionally lets slip a comment that sounds suspiciously contemporary. But maybe they’re historically accurate. The real one was way ahead of her time. In a letter to her husband Abigail once wrote: “…remember the ladies …if particular attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voce, or Representation.” We have to remember, however, that back then “lady” did not mean female with nice manners. It meant female whose rank in a regimented society placed her well above the majority.
When over to visit her dear friend Rebecca Malvern, Abigail found the bloody corpse of a lovely young lady. Rebecca was missing and the victim was Perdita Pentyre, mistress to a British Colonel. When it appeared as if Abigail’s husband might be accused of the murder, she realized that she must identify the killer and clear his name.
The too clever title comes out of non-Biblical folklore. The emotionally disturbed Mrs. Hazlitt says, “she [Abigail] is the whore of Babylon, the daughter of Eve… the worst of Eve’s nine daughters. The Meddling Woman, going about the streets, asking what doesn’t concern her.” Events are kept close to the historical record, except when the author provides Samuel Adams with a slave for a concubine.
Evident is the influence of Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, that is also Abigail’s favorite novel. It was a 1740 epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, with themes about women being controlled, exploited and maltreated. Hamilton has avoided the white hats/black hats dualism so familiar to revolutionary era literature.
Necessary cooperation with the British military, Lieutenant Coldstone and Sergeant Muldoon, starts with mutual mistrust, but builds into a team effort. Whether Brit or Colonial, Tory or and Whig, Papist or Separatist, each character is a human being with all the feelings and beliefs they would have possessed in real life. Even the arrogant British officer and the angry controlling husband are allowed a soft side. This is a novel that will keep you reading while teaching you accurate history about one of America’s great historical figures.
Moderate violence. No disturbing content. P.C.
First of three novels in the Abigail Adams Series
Barbara Hanley's webpage. (click here)
Barbara Hanley on Wikipedia. (click here)