Over the Christmas holiday, I read a new mystery that features Abigail Adams as the protagonist. Sometimes these types of mysteries (the ones that take historical figures and reshape them as “detectives”) can be less than satisfying, but I found The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton to be an enjoyable read on several levels.

The book was a good mystery, and I think that the author created a believable “mystery-solver” out of Abigail Adams. I think it helps that she is not the sole character investigating the mystery. She works closely with a British officer assigned to the case, and her work in seeking answers is believable for a woman of her times (and independent spirit).

I also felt that the author did a good job of blending historical events with the mystery plot. The story takes place as tensions are growing in Boston over the tea-tax and the Boston Tea Party is the culminating historical event of the novel, but overall the history functions as background to the mystery. I think the author successfully sets the reader inside the limited perspective of the characters, who, of course, have no idea how these momentous events will pan out.

Finally, I think that the author portrayed the daily life, work, and mindset of a colonial woman in a believable and fascinating way. While Abigail Adams pursues answers about a gruesome murder as well as about the disappearance of a dear friend, her work as a colonial wife and mother must go on. I found the description of laundry day in particular to be interesting and sobering — it made me thankful for washing machines, which truly do function as our modern-day servants! Abigail has a servant who works alongside her and also is able to care for her children while she seeks after a murderer (her habit of doing this is connected to the title of the novel), but Abigail certainly carries her fair share of the work in a colonial household, descriptions of which made me feel exhausted and fascinated at the same time! I also found Abigail to be a character of her times — her view of herself, her husband, and her faith are realistic to a woman living in the 18th century. By historical accounts, Adams was a forward-thinking woman, yet I never felt that the author was imposing modern values and thoughts on her.

If you enjoy mysteries and history, I would recommend The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton. I’ll be keeping an eye out for forthcoming mysteries in this new series.