“The Ashes of Aubrey Milner” by Ellison Blackburn

The Ashes of Aubrey Milner: The Chicago St. Clairs


Ellison Blackburn

“The Ashes of Aubrey Milner” is a detective story with a difference: the detective in question is a woman who has been brought from the future back into Victorian-era Chicago, and is now working as a police medical examiner, disguised as a man. When she is asked to examine a horribly burned victim, she ends up investigating a case that’s much closer to home than she ever expected.

The story cleverly combines multiple genres: historical fiction, cozy mystery, time travel, and a touch of steampunk. There’s the detailed descriptions of late-19th-century Chicago, which is a kind of character itself; the investigation of a mysterious murder with the traditional unmasking of the villain in a group “trial” scene at the end; the time-travel subplot and the heroine’s desire to return to her own time; and the combination of 19th and 22nd-century gadgets that the heroine uses. Although this book will probably appeal primarily to mystery fans, there’s a bit of everything in it for other readers.

While it’s quick and easy read, it also finds time for River’s (the heroine’s) introspections on when and where she finds herself, and how it differs from her home time, especially in its treatment of women. River is a thoughtful rather than “feisty” heroine, but that makes her all the more feminist in thought and deed, so readers looking for a smart, intellectual female lead should definitely check this book out.

I received a free review copy from the author. All opinions are my own.

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