The Vital Principle

Welcome to the witty, intriguing world of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency!

Writing mysteries set in the Regency period can be challenging. Forensics and medicine as we know it today were in their infancy and the thermometer used to take a person’s temperature wasn’t widely used until 1867 when Sir Thomas Allbutt invented the first practical medical thermometer. Even then, it took 5 minutes! So establishing the time of death in even so crude a way as taking the body’s temperature was nearly unknown, leaving investigators almost exclusively with their wits and the bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence they could collect.

But it was precisely those challenges that interested me and led to the creation of an Inquiry Agency where all those luckless second or third sons who would never inherit their family’s fortune could come to exercise their intelligence.

The Vital Principle is the first book featuring Knighton Gaunt, the founder of Second Sons.

Determined to maintain her independence and social status, Prudence Barnard stretches her small income by being little more than a professional, and entertaining, guest. If her hostess wishes to communicate with the spirit world then Pru is happy to oblige her, even if it is mostly a sham.  And it goes well until she discovers her host has hired an inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, to expose her as a fraud.  Unfortunately, her host is poisoned and suspicion soon falls on her. She is under investigation and that seems to be motive enough according the rest of the guests. The others unite to blame her and shield their own secrets.

Desperate to prove her innocence, Pru tries to persuade Knighton to let her help, but he refuses.  Anyone who claims to speak with THE VITAL PRINCIPLE of the dead cannot be trusted. However, nice men are rarely murdered and as Knighton digs into the pas, he finds that many of the guests have much stronger reasons for wanting their host dead. When a tragic, second murder is committed, Knighton gives Pru the benefit of the doubt in order to unveil the real murderer before she, or he, can strike again.


Can Spiritualism really be the motive for murder?

Rochelle’s Reviews says:

I usually figure out who did it at least halfway through the book. Ms. Corwin kept me guessing right up until the very end. I’m glad this is the first book in a series. I will be reading more of Ms. Corwin’s books. I’ve found a new favorite author, and a Regency mystery writer, at that!


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