St. Martin's, May 2004, 24.95, 320 pp.
Suffragette Philomena Venn donates to the Women's Social and Political Union a valuable painting by renowned French artist Boucher in her will. Member Nell Bray goes to collect the painting so that the group can sell it for a needed influx of cash. When she receives a forgery from the deceased's family and the widower refuses to do the right thing by his wife, Nell takes it upon herself to steal the real one and replace it with the fake.
Breaking and entering Mr. Venn's house in the middle of the night proves rather easy. However, the switch is deferred when Nell finds a corpse. Someone murdered the victim and as Nell explains to the constable why she was in the house, she vows to herself to uncover the identity of the culprit so can clear her name.
BLOOD ON THE WOOD is an engaging historical mystery that brings to life the early struggles of the surrogate movement in England. The fine amateur sleuth theme is cleverly enhanced by unpretentious looks at early twentieth century society mostly by the extended Venn family, suffragette sisters, or the heroine. Nell as the center of the tale is the real deal so that the audience obtains a wonderful novel that showcases a bygone period in a delightful way as does the previous Bray books do (see DEAD MAN RIDING and PERFECT DAUGHTER).
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner