Saturday, April 06, 2019

Charity's Burden by Edith Maxwell

Edith Maxwell skillfully uses her Quaker Midwife series to tell about history while discussing controversial topics. Quaker Rose Carroll is in the perfect position to ask questions of women in Amesbury, Massachusetts in 1869, when the women might not answer questions from the police. Charity's Burden discusses women's issues that have come back to haunt us in the twenty-first century.

Rose Carroll is a skilled midwife, but when a patient, Charity Skells, needs help, she appears to be bleeding out. Rose takes her to the hospital, but it's too late. When Rose asks her policeman friend to insist on an autopsy, her worst fears are confirmed. Charity, a mother of five, appears to have died of a botched abortion. Rose knows Charity was desperate, and she and her husband were struggling to take care of so many children. The more Rose learns of Charity and her husband, the more she fears the young mother's death may have been murder.

Despite the disapproval of the new police chief, Rose still insists on investigating. She asks questions of her friends and the mothers-to-be as she makes her rounds. Even with births, a forthcoming family wedding, and her fear of Charity's cousin who seems to be stalking her, Rose is determined to find the killer before another life is lost.

Maxwell's story of women, abortions, and the need for safe practices is as relevant today as it was in 1869 following the enactment of the Comstock Laws. Charity's Burden is a compelling historical mystery. Maxwell's series highlights the Quaker lifestyle at that period, and the life of a community. This is a time and place, post-Civil War in the north, not often featured in fiction or mysteries.

Edith Maxwell's website is

Charity's Burden by Edith Maxwell. Midnight Ink, 2019. ISBN 9780738756431 (paperback), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

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