Visit 1703 London and Be Dazzled by the Artifacts in 'The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne'

Visit 1703 London and Be Dazzled by the Artifacts in 'The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne'

Thursday, 3 December, 2020

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.

rule

From priceless jewels to rare books and taxidermied birds to mystical talismans, an 18th-century cabinet of curiosities was a treasure trove of wonders and delights. In this cozy mystery, you’ll time-travel to London in 1703 and meet an intrepid heroine who makes her mark in this world of discovery.

In all of London, no one has a cabinet of curiosities as grand as that of Sir Barnaby Mayne, a fact of which he’s all-too-eager to remind his colleagues and competitors. Despite his prickly exterior, his house/museum has become a place of study for the curious and scholarly. But one day, his hubris catches up with him, and he’s stabbed to death among his prized possessions.

Enter Cecily Kay. She’s detail-oriented, observant, and tenacious — with a blooming expertise in plants and an insatiable curiosity that’s she’s not afraid to follow into dire circumstances. She becomes convinced the humble fellow who confessed to the murder is not guilty. And soon, she’s both hunter and hunted in her quest to solve the mystery.

painting of cabinet of curiosities by domenico remps
Cabinet of Curiosities by Domenico Remps, circa 1690

This is a solidly rendered murder mystery made delightfully charming thanks to our intrepid heroine and the floor-to-ceiling wonders of the cabinet of curiosities. Every surface of the Mayne residence is festooned with stones, bones, books, pelts, jewels, gewgaws, and artifacts that dazzle the eye and the intellect. Outside its hallowed walls, London is vividly rendered in all its sooty, scintillating glory.

You’ll meet a ragtag group of collectors, private club members, hoodlums, and intellectuals with questionable motives and potentially dangerous secrets. It’s a thrilling adventure with a joyous sense of wonder. And spending time with Cecily is a treat: a heroine thirsty for knowledge with the integrity to do the right thing, no matter the personal cost.

The emerald had grown in a vein of quartz fed by the liquid heart of the earth. In the three thousand years between the day it was pried from its rocky setting and the day it became part of the Mayne collection, it had been given to kings and wrested from them. It had been embedded in one of the eye sockets of a sculpted god. It had glittered on the hilt of a sword wielded in sunlit battle. It had adorned the throat of a doomed bride. It had also acquired etchings: on one side the lion-headed Chnoubis, on the other a ring of Greek letters that spelled a long-forgotten name. The label written in Sir Barnaby’s hand claimed that it had belonged for a time to the historian Tacitus, who had found it on the shores of the Baltic Sea. — Elsa Hart

This charming mystery (352 pages) was published in August of 2020 by Minotaur Books. The book takes you to 18th-century London. Melissa read The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne: A Mystery

 

Top image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

London, 1888. So posh, polite, and perilous. Go undercover with Veronica Speedwell and her partner Stoker as they try to avert royal embarrassment, dodge flying bullets, thwart Jack the Ripper, and flirt up a storm.
Imagine a world where the Brontë sisters take a break from writing their groundbreaking novels and set out across the moors to solve a murder mystery. Then rejoice, because author Bella Ellis has created that world.
This weekend, take yourself off to Victorian London with a group of monstrously determined young women. You'll foil villains, beat back personal demons, and make a sound argument for why dresses must have pockets.
The heroine of this super-gothy Gothic novel is a combination of Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, and Wednesday Addams. There's also a secret diary, a maybe-haunted painting, and a murder. What more could you need?
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Victorian England. Meet a lady lepidopterist, celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and — oh, dear! — get caught up in villainy, kidnap, and a little murder.
An isolated hotel. A brutal snowstorm. A mysterious death. And a high school music festival?! This novel has everything! It's a thrill ride, and we love when an author bends our favorite literary tropes to her will.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

If you like the work we do, you can help support us through our Patreon! That'll unlock additional content, too — like Mel's recipe for Banh Mi Bowls, and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is © 2021 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.