Book Review: A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton

Posted May 18, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton
Genres: Amateur Sleuth, Historical, Mystery
Published by Berkley Books on October 5, 2010
Pages: 335
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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Second in the Abigail Adams amateur sleuth, historical mystery series and revolving around John Adams’ wife, Abigail. The focus is on Abigail investigating John Knox’s arrest in the Boston of 1774, ten weeks after the Boston Tea Party. Yeah, things are tense…

In 2011, A Marked Man was nominated for the Macavity Award for Sue Feder Historical Mystery.

My Take

Hamilton is amazing! I really felt like I was there in 1774. Too bad it was winter, for I was piling the blankets on while I read. Dang, it was cold. Just reading the conditions in which Harry is held is enough to chill you to the bone.

Hamilton talks about the cows coming into the spring milk, of making butter, of keeping the sabbath, of some of the *ick* habits in the pews(!), a fourteen-year-old responsible enough to prepare dinners(!!), the children’s chores, and so much more that conveys life in Boston.

It’s family life with four young children. And Abigail feels quite guilty about shirking her work while she investigates.

I LOVE that John doesn’t treat Abigail like “the little woman”. It’s a fine line the Adamses straddle as they support insurrection against the Crown and yet try to instill right and wrong in their young children.

Do read the Author’s Note at the end about John Knox. I had no idea he was such an influence on our country!

It certainly does ram home the need for the American Revolution…sigh…yeah, maybe we need another one. That double standard for girls and boys is too obvious and not much has changed. Men are still getting away with rape, much like Sir Jonathan, a pervert who’s been allowed to get away with rape for years. Sounds #meToo-ish. Even Coldstone knows his reputation.

“He was one of those men who seem to believe that servant-girls choose to be so because they’re lusty, not because they’re poor — even those who never choose their condition at all.

Considering that that double standard existed between classes with men of a lower class being treated like women were, you’d think they’d be a little more compassionate.

As for the Proprietors robbing the tenants they brought in to settle the land up in Maine…oy…

Things are fraught. John doesn’t dare have any visibility in investigating Harry’s arrest, as his membership in the Sons of Liberty is no secret, and it’s likely that the Crown would arrest John! Verbal exchanges are cat-and-mouse as it is between Abigail and Coldstone.

Coldstone has his own game he has to play, for he believes in truth and justice while his superior, ahem, officer, wants easy.

Mrs Sandhayes is something else. So very condescending (and humorous) about life in the Colonies.

John Adams is preoccupied with a divorce case in which the husband beats his wife and has thrown her out of the house because he wants to marry someone else.

“Honestly, I understand why ladies are never the heroines of anything, they simply cannot get away from their kitchens long enough to rescue anyone.”

The Sons of Liberty do seem to have a pretty good information network.

Jesus, Fenton has been with Sir Jonathan for twenty years and he’d sack Fenton because he’s sick?? What a jerk. Ah, geez, the reason why the locks are on the inside of all those doors in the hall of Pear Tree House… Cruel. Wicked. Yet so apt.

It’s a tale that helps push home why we rebelled against the British. What’s really sad? The reality of justice that happens at the end and is so heavily weighted in politics.

“Justice is justice and does not — or should not — read the political newspapers.”

The Story

The evidence is obviously false, but the Crown wants Harry Knox dead for his political leanings. Unless they can persuade him to turn King’s Evidence against his fellow members of the Sons of Liberty.

It’s a race against time to prove his innocence or…

The Characters

Abigail Adams, a.k.a., Portia, is married to John Adams, a.k.a., Lysander, a very busy lawyer as well as a Son of Liberty. Their children include not-quite-nine-year-old Nabby, six-year-old John Quincy Adams, three-year-old Charley, and eighteen-month-old Tommy. The fourteen-year-old Pattie Clarke is their hired girl and practically family, the daughter of neighbors of the family farm in Braintree. John Thaxter is John’s law clerk. Semiramis and Cleopatra are the family cows.

Abigail’s family includes a parson father, Mary and Betsy are her sisters, and William is her delinquent brother. Silas Greenleaf is a friend of the family who will buy Sheba’s children. More of the family includes the Smiths, Quincys, and Tufts. Asa Shapleigh had been murdered years ago.

Sam Adams is John’s cousin and a fellow Son of Liberty. Bess is his wife, and they live on Purchase Street. Surry is their servant-woman. Old Deacon Adams had been Sam’s dad.

The Sons of Liberty are…
…technically, a terrorist organization, battling against the Crown. The inner circle includes John; Sam; Revere; John Hancock, a smuggler; and, Ben Edes, who is the publisher of the Gazette.

Paul Revere is a silversmith, the street-level organizer of the Sons of Liberty’s information network, and has served as a clerk of the North Square Market. Rachel is his wife. He has a thirteen-year-old son, young Paul Revere.

Henry “Harry” Knox is a bookseller who surreptitiously prints seditious broadsides written by the Sons and John. In his recent past, he was known as a fistfighter and is second-in-command of the Boston Grenadiers, a patriot militia company. His brother Billy is fifteen.

The Butlers are Abigail and John’s next-door neighbors. Arabella Butler lost her three-year-old son. Her cooper husband, Tom, has apprentices, including Shim Walton and Jed. Ehud Hanson is a shoemaker and the neighbor on the other side of the Adamses.

The Reverend Cooper preaches. Mrs Hitchbourne attends the service. Rob Newman is the sexton at Christ’s Church. Ezra Logan mans a skiff, the Katrina, to transport all manner of goods. Frederick North is a sugar purveyor. Brainert Howell rented his horse to Sir Jonathan. Dr Joseph Warren is the Adams’ physician. Walter Clegg is the ferryman for the Winissimet Ferry while Obed Hussey is the ferryman for the Charles Town Ferry. Thurlow Apthorp, a real estate speculator, owns Pear Tree House and has rented it to Mr Toby Elkins of Bridgetown. Mr Stanley is a portrait painter…and not very good. Jed Paley has a fast horse. Captain Nesbitt has been anxious to set sail with the Saturn.

The Salutation is a notorious Whig tavern. The Dressed Ship has terrible butter. The Spancel is the tavern frequented by the governor’s footmen and grooms. The Sons of Liberty frequently meet in the Green Dragon. The Man-o’-War is a taproom on Ship Street owned by Mrs Klinker and used as an accommodation address. I think the Horn Spoon is an inn run by Mrs Nevers.

The toad-eating Thomas Fluckner is a wealthy Tory merchant with lands in Maine; Hannah is his wife. Lucy Fluckner is his headstrong daughter…who’s in love with Harry. Philomela is Lucy’s maid. Hercules is their obese pug. Mrs Margaret Sandhayes is a down-at-heels friend of the family from England who chaperones Lucy. And she cheats at cards. Bathsheba “Sheba” is a slave woman servant who has disappeared, leaving two children behind: Marcellina “Marcie” and baby Stephen. Millward Wingate works for Fluckner and claims to be a witness. Mr Barnaby is the Fluckner butler; his wife, Mrs Emma Barnaby, has charge of the maids and the sewing. Mrs Prawle is the cook.

Caroline Hartnell is having a loo party. Gwen Pugh is her woman-servant. Mrs Hartnell seems to be interested in the dashing Major Usselby. Seems a Mr Smyles from New York also caused a scandal. A Mr VassallFelicity Gardiner claims her husband really owns the Maine lands.

Sir Jonathan Cottrell is the King’s Special Commissioner who intends to be Lucy’s fiancé while he collects evidence about the Sons. He’s staying with the governor. David Fenton is the commissioner’s valet who is sick.

Governor Hutchinson is quite decent except that he hands out offices to all his cronies and only sees his own side of things. Mr Thirsk is the governor’s butler. Mr Buttrick is his steward and married to Mattie, Emma Barnaby’s sister. Mr Grant Sellon is his coachman. William Havisham is the head stable boy. Dr Rowe is his personal physician.

Guests at the governor’s ball include Mr Apthorp (Seth Balfour is his coachman); Mr Bowdoin, Sr, (Arthur Cover is his footman); Mr Vassall (Nicholas Lane is his under-footman); and, the Sumners (Belinda Sumner is married but still talked about).

Boston City Jail
Hoyle is the corrupt jail keeper.

Castle Island is…
…a brick fortress in the bay. Colonel Alexander Leslie, the second son of the Earl of Leven, commands the Sixty-fourth Regiment that occupies the fort. Major Salisbury is Coldstone’s superior officer. Lieutenant Rufus Dowling is an Army surgeon newly arrived from the Indies. Mr Purfoy is a midshipman.

Lieutenant Jeremy Coldstone is the Assistant Provost Marshal of the regiment who became friends with Abigail in The Ninth Daughter, 1. Sergeant Muldoon, Farquhar, and Lieutenants Stevenson and Barclay work with Lt Coldstone.

Many of those arrested by the Crown are tried in the Admiralty Courts in Halifax. Captain Dashwood commands the Incitatus, which is due from Jamaica to take Knox to Halifax.

Haverhill, Massachusetts
Mary Teasel, who has a prickly independent spirit, is one of John Adams’ clients. Her lousy husband is Ham Teasel.

Boothbay, Maine
Mr Bingham is Fluckner’s agent for his land in Maine. He also handles the timber shipping for several of the Great Proprietors and owns a schooner, the Hetty. Hilda Sturmer is Bingham’s milkmaid, and she gets around. Quimby owns the public house.

Heavens Rejoice “Hev” Miller captains the Magpie. His cousins — Eli Putnam (the ship’s boy) and Matthias Brown — are the crew. Leviathan “Levi” Miller is Hev’s sister.

Bridgeton, Barbados
Sir Damien Purcell is on the governor’s council. Fanny Gill is the daughter of a mantua maker who was paid off. Cassandra Palmer ran off with a Captain Jellicoe. Her brother, Androcles Palmer, is an actor. Mrs Cherne is paying his bills in Boston. Blaylock is part of Palmer’s acting troupe.

There’s a suspicion that the Marques de Tallegas wanted to stay on Sir Jonathan’s good side.

Tredgold was Sybilla Seaford‘s lover. Until she was raped by Sir Jonathan. Her sister, Margaret Seaford, was said to have committed suicide.

The Cover and Title

The cover is much warmer with its gold-trimmed, red satin draperies, pulled back and framing the multi-paned window that looks out over a nighttime city street. A red valance that’s heavily embroidered in gold has a center cameo of Abigail. In the windowsill is a blown-out candle in a brass candle stick and a ball of green yarn next to a black cat sitting patiently watching out the window at a man in a greatcoat and tricorn hat walking down the street where buildings meet. There’s a full moon in a cloudy sky. A heap festooned with a red scarf is piled on the street just above the window sill. The background is a wall that gradates from a really deep red-black to a medium gray at the bottom. At the very top above the valance is the series information in gold. The title is in white on the left side of the window above the cat’s head. The rest of the text is in white below the windowsill, starting with a testimonial, the author’s name, and then an info blurb.

The title refers to Sir Jonathan, for he had made himself A Marked Man.

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