08 February 2013

Book Review: Regulated for Murder by Suzanne Adair

Title: Regulated for Murder
A Michael Stoddard American Revolution Thriller

Author: Suzanne Adair
Publisher: Suzanne Adair
Format: Paperback
234 pages
Genre: Fiction, Historical Thriller
Source: Author

Regulated for Murder is an exciting historical thriller set during the American Revolutionary War.The protagonist is Lieutenant Michael Stoddard, a British officer who is also a tenacious and resourceful detective. The year is 1781. Stoddard must solve a murder and while following the clues, he unexpectedly learns more about an old mystery as well.

The title is a reference to the "War of the Regulators", an unsuccessful uprising against corrupt colonial officials (the Regulators) in North and South Carolina. It lasted from 1765 to 1771 and is thought to be a catalyst to the American Revolution. The history of the Regulators is woven into the story, with a mystery going back to that time. 

The reader is immediately pulled into the story as it begins with Stoddard and his men narrowly avoiding a deadly trap during an investigation that Stoddard hopes will lead him to secretly tracking down a psychopathic British officer. However, he is abruptly pulled off the case and given a new assignment. His orders are to deliver a vital dispatch from his commander in Wilmington, North Carolina to a Loyalist courier (the Loyalists were colonialists who supported the British) located in Hillsborough. 

Disguised as a civilian, Stoddard sets off on the dangerous mission expecting to deliver the secret message and ride back to Wilmington the next day. However, things don't go according to plan when Stoddard discovers the body of the courier. Stoddard appears to be first on the scene of the murder and he quickly realizes he's been set up as the prime suspect. Consequently, he has no choice but to investigate the murder of the courier.

Stoddard's plight is complicated further by a corrupt sheriff and his vicious cohorts. These ruthless adversaries conspire against him as Stoddard tries to hide his real identity while setting about putting the clues together to solve the murder. It transpires that Kate Duncan, the widowed owner of a tavern in Wilmington, is in town and fortunately she doesn't reveal his true identity to the sheriff. Instead, Kate is intrigued by his situation and Stoddard hopes he can trust her as he desperately needs her help. If he's found to be carrying a message for the British Army, he will be executed.

Regulated for Murder is a supremely well-crafted story with more than one mystery for Stoddard to solve. Indeed, it's fascinating to see how the various clues come together, and to follow Stoddard as he uses his keen powers of observation that demonstrate what a brilliant detective he is. When he realizes he's stumbled upon vital clues to solving another mystery that leads to an execution ten years earlier, he is spurred on by his desire for justice.

All the historical details and references are a bonus to the action-filled story so the reader feels immersed in each scene. The sense of time and place is extremely vivid with very descriptive prose, authentic sounding dialogue, and the atmospheric sights, sounds, and smells of the 18th century well-described.

The story is aided by a tight narrative, fast pace, and a wonderful cast of characters (a clever detective, feisty women, a charming deaf mute, corrupt officials, and vicious villains) that seem very real. The portrayal of Michael Stoddard is particularly striking. It's easy to believe in him and root for him. And the depiction of his ruthless enemies, conveys a strong sense of menace which helps to crank up the tension as Stoddard gets embroiled in circumstances beyond his control and he is put in increasingly dangerous and desperate situations.

This is a compelling thriller, featuring a resourceful detective with impressive sleuthing skills, and brimming with incredible period details..The comprehensive research done by the author is apparent throughout the novel 

Regulated for Murder will appeal to history buffs as well as fans of murder mysteries. There's also a sprinkling of romance with entanglements between various characters. The tightly woven plot, the convincing characters, and the realistic period setting, all add up to a credible and enthralling story that leads to a very satisfying conclusion. 

I highly recommend this atmospheric and vibrant thriller set during the American Revolutionary War. Entertaining and informative, with memorable characters. I enjoyed it immensely.

Note: The author also provides an informative Historical Afterword plus a Selected Bibliography.

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