A trained historian, Rose Melikan is a newcomer to the mystery scene, but one would never suspect it after reading The Blackstone Key, her wonderful, atmospheric, first installment in a proposed trilogy set in the England of Napoleonic times. From the first chapter she evokes the gloom, penury and perilous political straits pervading the country. Warfare threatens and spies run rampant. Amidst this turmoil, protagonist Mary Finch escapes her grim, thankless life teaching in a girls school. Expecting an inheritance from her uncle and striving to escape poverty, Mary embarks upon an ambitious journey that turns out far differently than she anticipated. While she isn't the heiress she hoped to be, Mary learns a great deal about the world around her, probably the best and most useful education possible. She becomes familiar with the upper class and its pretensions, as well as with the criminal element involved in a dangerous smuggling operation.
As an educated woman, Mary is much more learned and intelligent than others initially acknowledge--or wish to acknowledge. Her academic mastery and keen curiosity provide her with the acumen necessary to decipher a crucial coded message that defies the attempts of others, all men, of course. Like Elizabeth Bennet, the quintessential literary character educated beyond the established norms, the prototypical Mary Finch defies the stereotypes of her class and times. Melikan makes certain that readers revel in Mary's well-deserved liberation.