BookCover_Rose in the Wheel 2014 cover-2The Rose in the Wheel
by S.K. Rizzolo


GENRE: historical mystery


BLURB: This well imagined, carefully detailed, and cleverly plotted debut draws on actual historical events of 1811 London.

Regency London knows Constance Tyrone as the conspicuously celibate founder of the St. Catherine Society, dedicated to helping poor women. One wet November evening a carriage mows down Constance outside her office. Why was a gentlewoman abroad in the night? And if she died under the wheel, whose hands bruised her neck and stole her monogrammed crucifix?

Dismissing the idea of an accident, Bow Street Runner John Chase forms an unlikely alliance with Penelope Wolfe, wife of the chief suspect. A young mother paying the price for an imprudent marriage, Penelope is eager to clear her husband Jeremy, a feckless portrait painter whose salacious drawings of the victim suggest an erotic interest. Barrister Edward Buckler, drawn despite himself to Penelope, shakes off his habitual lethargy to join the investigation.

As horrifying murders on the Ratcliffe Highway claim all London’s attention, the trio discovers that it won’t be easy to unravel the enigma of Constance Tyrone, a woman who revives the legend of martyred St. Catherine.


EXCERPT:  Penelope tumbled out of sleep, stifling a scream. Someone was in the room. A step shuffled; a drawer edged open with the scratch of old wood. Her arm reached instinctively for the child at her side, but Sarah still slept, warm and sweet, breathing softly.

A form detached from the shadows by the bureau and moved toward her. She heard a thud followed by a muffled curse.


“Who left that blasted thing in the middle of the room?”

As he bent to right the rocking horse, Penelope slipped out of bed, groping for the tinderbox on the nightstand. Fingers trembling, she struck metal against flint until a spark caught. She lit her candle and turned to face him.

Jeremy stepped into the flicker-glow, slivers of light illuminating eyes, nose, or mouth, each in turn then thrust back into darkness. He was smiling.

“What do you want?” she said.


IMG_3739 - Version 2 – Version 3AUTHOR Bio: S.K. Rizzolo writes dark regency mysteries—no dukes, earls, or ballroom debutantes need apply. After developing a childhood obsession with Henry VIII’s headless wives, she became an incurable Anglophile and went on to watch practically every Masterpiece Theatre show ever made. By day she teaches literature to high school students; by night she retreats to her dusty attic to craft her own stories. Her mystery series features a trio of crime-solving friends: a Bow Street Runner (an early English detective), an unconventional lady, and a melancholic lawyer—all of whom live much more exciting lives than she does. The Rose in the Wheel is the first title in the series followed by Blood for Blood, Die I Will Not, and On a Desert Shore. Rizzolo lives in Los Angeles with Oliver Twist and Lucy, her cats, and Michael, her husband. She also has a grown actress-daughter named after Miranda in The Tempest.

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Review:  Disclaimer: I was given a copy of The Rose in the Wheel for an honest review.

The Rose in the Wheel is a historical murder mystery set in London in the 1800’s. A wealthy woman who has devoted her life to helping poor, unwed mothers is savagely murdered and her body dumped in the street.  At first, the police think it’s an accident, but they soon suspect murder. When her errant husband is named the chief suspect, Penelope Wolfe decides to clear his  name.  Penelope is an amazing heroine. I hadn’t met many like her  – she’s fiercely independent and intelligent.  Although legally wed, she lives apart from her feckless husband, Jeremy, who only comes to see her when he needs money.  Penelope is a single woman raising her child in a time most women are simply housewives or drudges. Penelope manages to support herself and her child with her writing and a small allowance from her father. Life is difficult enough; to make matters worse, her husband’s name is suddenly linked to the murder.

Joining forces with Bow Street Runner, John Chase, Penelope risks her life as  she sorts through a tangled web involving the victim’s family, well-placed politicians, clergy, and a surgeon. There is a large cast of interesting characters. The writing is descriptive and flowing. The plot moves slowly at times, but it is an easy, entertaining read. The ending surprised me  – I won’t say more. If you like well-researched historical novels with a “whodunnit” theme, you will enjoy this. I feel the author has more books in line for Penelope Wolfe – let’s hope she comes back for an encore!