Kelly Jones, Murder, Magic, and What We Wore (Knopf 978-0-553-53520-4, $17.99, 287pp, hc) September 2017. Cover by Sarah Watts.
A young lady in 1818 London learns her father is dead and she’s now destitute in this charming young-adult fantasy Regency mystery/spy novel. Annis Whitworth isn’t the sort to give in easily to her change in circumstance; she’s figured out that her father was a spy, and she’s found a clue in his effects. Unfortunately, the War Office won’t listen to her, much less hire her, so she falls back on a new plan. She’s always had a knack for helping other ladies find the right clothes, and while altering some new off-the-rack (shudder) mourning gowns for herself and her aunt, discovers that she has a magical talent for creating illusions with clothes. With the help of her surprisingly resourceful new maid, and over the strenuous objections of the aunt who raised her, Annis sets out to become a glamour-modiste, solve her father’s murder, and persuade the powers-that-be that her magical disguises are just what their spies need. Of course, things don’t go smoothly, but after a number of mostly humorous mishaps and close shaves, Annis does indeed manage to save England from the bad guys – and worse dresses. The plot’s a bit melodramatic and even silly sometimes, but Annis is delightfully stubborn and smart, if distressingly ignorant in a lot of ways, while her proto-feminist aunt and pragmatic maid provide solid backup in this entertaining romp for younger readers.
Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.
This review and more like it in the November 2017 issue of Locus.