A Bitter Chill – Reviews

Aurelia Marcella, the innkeeper heroine of Finnis’s second first-century historical set in Roman Britannia (after 2003’s Get Out or Die), is engaging… Aurelia’s household’s preparation for the feast of Saturnalia are disturbed by the unexpected arrival of a large party of nobles, whose family intrigues may have an impact on her own. When a servant is murdered… the innkeeper and her sister fall under suspicion… a fast-paced tale.
– Publishers Weekly, July 2005

Innkeeper Aurelia Marcella, the resourceful heroine featured in Finnis’ debut novel, Get Out or Die (2003), returns in another intriguing thriller set in a remote outpost of Roman Britannia in A.D. 95. Busy preparing to celebrate the winter holiday of Saturnalia… a group of querulous aristocratic travelers descends upon the inn in search of the runaway heir to the family fortune… Finnis does a good job of interweaving several plot strands into a suspenseful and authentically detailed historical whodunit.
– Margaret Flanagan, Booklist, September 2005

I‘ve read enough historical mysteries to really appreciate someone staking out fresh territory rather than offering something that may be enjoyable but still begs to be labeled the next [insert established author’s name]. Jane Finnis does this with her Roman series featuring Aurelia Marcella, a female innkeeper. Ms. Finnis stays true to the customs of the time by having Aurelia’s brother Lucius the mansio’s (inn’s) legal owner, but Aurelia’s clearly in charge (I suspect that happened more often than we might think). And while the setting is Roman, it’s the shaky British frontier of the empire, not the more usual Rome itself. The mansio and frontier settings provide a natural context for the stories to be filled with a variety of native and Roman characters, with inevitable conflicts among them. A Bitter Chill is second in the series, with each book working well as a standalone. There’s connection between them, but you don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second, nor does reading the second spoil the first…The author clearly knows and enjoys her setting, bringing it to vivid life, populating it with interesting characters that you are amused by and care about. The style is light and casual, making for easy reading.
– Kim Malo, Myshelf, September 2005.

A BITTER CHILL is solidly in the tradition of British mysteries featuring the atmosphere and style of the countryside away from London. However, Jane Finnis nicely varies the theme by placing her tale in first century Britain, when the Romans were still governing most of the known world. In a small wayside village near the city we now know as York, two sisters run an inn…As they prepare for the late December feast of Saturnalia… a large party arrives unannounced. Included in the party is an ailing father threatening an ever changing list of alterations to his will, a harridan of a mother terrorizing all and sundry, and a large contingent of servants, attorneys, and physicians….Finnis’ main characters Aurelia and Albia prove themselves equal to their challenges.
Woodstock, Crimespree Magazine, February 2006

Having read Jane Finnis’ first historical mystery, I opened her second, A Bitter Chill, with anticipation of a good read. I was right. Kidnappings… a three hour eating orgy… murders, and various acts of mayhem fill the pages of this excellent reconstruction of the times. History has always been a fascination of mine, but, I have to admit, I still learned a great deal from A Bitter Chill, which is full of great characters and a story line that kept me guessing ’til the end. Aurelia would have made it in today’s world. Full of vinegar, and aware of her worth, she can make decisions and act on them. Only a touch of jealousy taints her perfection. This is a good read.
– Mary Ann Smyth, Bookloons. September 2005

Readers who liked the first book in this series, GET OUT OR DIE, will find A BITTER CHILL is even more exciting. It is a fantastic historical mystery that gives insight into the Roman culture adjusting to life in the back water provinces. The characters are well drawn and the support cast plays key roles and are as important to the storyline as the protagonist. Aurelia is an independent businesswoman who would have been at home in twenty-first century America instead of a Roman province where women were considered second citizens.
– Harriet Klausner, September 2005

A Bitter Chill is a welcome return to Aurelia Marcella and her family with this tale of missing heirs, a battle over wills, forlorn lovers and some rather ambitious criminals. This gripping historical crime novel is as convincing as it is enjoyable. Anyone who has a fondness for Rome, its life and its citizens must get pleasure from reading this latest book. The author has a spectacular knack of bringing the livelihood of the town and inhabitants to life, to the extent that she has written a marvellous book that is worth savouring.
– Ayo Onatade, Mystery Women, December 2005

If that gaudy, blood-drenched television series “Rome” makes you want to know what everyday life was really like for the Romans who lived in conquered lands such as Britannia, Jane Finnis is the writer for you. Her second period mystery (after the superb “Get Out Or Die”) again uses topnotch writing and research to get under the skin of Romans and their increasingly restive Brit charges.
– Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune, September 2005

This second book in the Oak Tree mansio series is just as engaging as the first, Get Out or Die. Aurelia Marcella continues to run the government-approved inn near Eburacum (modern York.)… Written in the first person, this mystery provides vivid descriptions of the period and customs with murder and mayhem aplenty.
– Trudi E. Jacobson, Historical Novels Review, February 2006