Going into The Fatal Coin by Lucienne Boyce, I had not read any of the other Dan Foster mysteries and was meeting the character for the first time. I'm happy to say that this appears to be a series where a reader can jump in at any point and quickly catch up to what's going on. The protagonist is a likable, if rough-around-the-edges, detective who gives as much guff as he gets. Even without having the context which I'm sure the previous installment provided, Dan is the kind of character you will feel like you have met before, if not relate directly to yourself.
The story takes place in 1794 England and the historical atmosphere of the book is another highlight of this work. The author has a gift for painting beautiful set pieces that jump to life in the readers' imagination - and those who aren't already well-versed on 18th century England will also learn a few interesting facts. The world in which Dan inhabits complements him perfectly, and it's easy to imagine him emerging from the fog, ready to engage in fisticuffs with whomever opposes him.
As this is a novella, the book is very digestible, but the author does not sacrifice detail or rush the plot. While the story overall is short and will likely leave you hungry for more, there are other Dan Foster mysteries to satiate you. The adventure we're taken on reaches a satisfying conclusion while leaving clues for later works, and accomplishes the goal of making you interested in reading of Foster's other experiences. I give The Fatal Coin 5 stars and recommend it for inclusion in Awesome Indies.
When Lord Oldfields, a magistrate and wealthy landowner, asks for assistance to determine who murdered his gamekeeper, Josh Castle, Foster’s superior dispatches him to the small village. Disguising himself as a wandering itinerant, Foster becomes part of the gang of poachers who are Lord Oldfields’ real targets. In the process, he uncovers deeds from the past, some so evil that their perpetrators will do anything—including murder—to keep them hidden.
Lucienne is a masterful storyteller, skillfully weaving history, culture, and the social customs of the period into the story in a natural manner that not only piques the reader’s interest, but helps the reader with a watchful eye and attentive mind to figure out whodunit.
This story has a profound theme. The injustices perpetrated upon the poor by the privileged, how people react to events over which they have little or no control, and the importance of integrity and empathy in alleviating the human condition.
Not one word in this story is wasted, and it is told in a manner that both entertains and educates—the true sign of a master wordsmith. Extremely well edited, I could not find one comma or semicolon out of place, and unlike books by some of today’s bestsellers, no misspellings or grammatical glitches—nary a one.
Unlike many books I read, which are good stories, but contain a few formatting or other errors, making it impossible for me to give them a top rating in all honesty, I found nothing here that gives me pause; and, I re-read several passages just to make sure. Actually, I have to get personal here and say that I re-read several passages because I found the prose so entertaining, I just wanted to go back over it to enjoy reading truly great writing.
I found everything about this book engrossing, from a cover that conveyed in stark symbolism the theme of the story, to passages that glistened with brilliance. The characters were magnificently portrayed. Dan Foster, the protagonist, is totally captivating—from his willingness to face his own weaknesses, to his devotion to right and justice, but most compelling, his sense of honor and decency. Even the secondary characters were fully fleshed and well-rounded, creating a setting that made me feel that I was there. I could see, hear, and smell the surroundings, and sense what characters were thinking and feeling in a story that was impossible to put down once I started reading.
An easy five stars.