he 18th century was an age like no other. Cold blooded and cynical on the one hand and touchingly optimistic on the other, it was a time of social, scientific and political upheaval. The Music of the Spheres, Elizabeth Redfern's first novel, combines the elements of mystery and history to produce a masterful piece of period suspense fiction set against the aftermath of the French Revolution.

When the monarchy toppled in France, no crowned head in Europe rested easy without a network of espionage agents. England was no exception, with its own spies and rumors of foreign agents who infiltrated every walk of life to lay the groundwork for a French invasion.

Redfern's central character is Home Office agent Jonathan Absey, a spy-catcher who had served his country well in hunting down England's enemies. His inside track to promotion and his peace of mind are destroyed by the murder of his 15-year-old daughter, Ellie; catching her killer becomes his reason for living. Jonathan loses his balance on the tightrope between personal and professional duty when a series of murders of red-haired young women, so painfully reminiscent of his daughter, point not only to French spies but to a sadistic killer in their midst. In order to solve the mystery of his daughter's death, Jonathan must track down the murderer of the other girls. The trail leads him to a group of French expatriates and their British friends, amateur astronomers who hide their personal demons behind a faade of scientific fascination with the mysteries of the solar system. Jonathan's intuition tells him that this seemingly harmless group of stargazers conceals spies, possibly traitors, and almost assuredly, a psychotic killer.

Like Patrick Suskind's Perfume and David Liss' A Conspiracy of Paper, this intensely atmospheric historical suspense novel is alive with the sights and sounds of the day. The author's years of research allow her to draw on a wealth of period detail from 18th century medicine, mathematics, astronomy and the British government's secret intelligence network, including the science of encryption. Solidly grounded in the history of a perilous time, the novel's imagery and characterization bring 18th century London to life with its contrasts of wealth and squalor, poverty and power, and people it with a compelling cast of finely drawn characters acting out an intricate and powerful human drama.

Mary Garrett reads and writes in Middle Tennessee.

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