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The Blackstone Key (Mary Finch #1)

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  490 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Gripping, richly evocative and full of high drama, 'The Blackstone Key' is a triumphant and wildly entertaining read that will delight fans of such classic adventures as Daphne du Maurier's 'Jamaica Inn'.
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published 2008 by Not Avail
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Community Reviews

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This book is what happens when a professor of political history gets it into her head to write a historical novel and uses Nancy Drew as her guide. Now, I don’t mean that as a slam to Nancy Drew books, which I love, but their charm is dependent on two factors: first, you read them when you’re 9; second, they’re only 80 pages long. This book, in contrast, is over 400 pages but seems much longer. If the length were drawn out only by pert dialogue that bears no resemblance to actual 19th century sp...more
"The Blackstone Key" was one of those books where I was just plodding through it, like someone would plod through the Gobi Desert desperately in search of water, hoping something exciting will wrap up this plot. Eventually of course, it is wrapped up and they all go home happy but it was so anticlimactic it just sort of fell flat for me. Mary Finch was not very appealing, not because she's feisty and headstrong, but because she sounded like a rerun of every feisty and headstrong girl who's ever...more
Sep 30, 2014 Miriam added it
Shelves: mystery, unfinished
I wasn't sure from the descriptions whether this was more mystery or more chick-lit; it turned out to be only mildly either. Melikan is clearly an Austen fan, but unfortunately that slow-paced, understated style really requires excellent prose to sustain it. I was bored and kept trying to skim to get to the next plot point, but would instead miss it in the massed descriptive passages and be lost. Who is this caricature of a cranky old rich lady and how did our silly heroine end up at her house?...more
Carol Kerry-green
I wasn't sure what to make of this at first, the heroine Mary Finch seemed quite hesitant in the first few pages, but once the mystery started she became more of a character, and indeed is central to the plot - which is good. When Mary receives a letter from her estranged uncle, she determines to set off to see him straight away, by travelling to Suffolk, which in 1795 is quite an undertaking. When the coach she is travelling in stops to aid a gentleman who has had a bad crash, Mary stays to loo...more
Aug 31, 2008 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone susceptible to the draw of a guilty pleasure
I came to read this book after reading a review that described this book as an example of what a collaboration between Jane Austen and Agatha Christie might have produced.

After reading it, I find that to be a very accurate summary. The main character is as charming and bright as Elizabeth Bennett and the peripheral characters as shrouded in suspicion as a cast of a Christie novel. Though I read it eagerly and rapidly, I found the ending rather abrupt and after all the guessing, slightly predicta...more
A non-offensive tale, that did not stir me, either to love it or hate it. Not the best mystery book I've read, not the worse.
Billy Young
A strong storyline and well developed characters make this story a thrilling read. If you love historical drama then I'm sure you will like this story. From the moment I began reading I was thrust on a wonderful adventure that continued till the end of the book.
Elizabeth Moffat
Quite a good tale of mystery and intrigue, however it took a while to "kick off" and I wasn't sure about it until about the middle of the novel, when it started to really interest me.
I personally requested this book for my school library after reading some foreign review online concerning it. Collecting it after it immediately had been neatly wrapped, I delved right into it only to be sadly disappointed. I was looking forward to more than just historical facts but more on 'who' Mary Finch's uncle could have been. A historical hero? A time traveler?
The covers of the books made me expect as much.

However there wasn't much other that what the blurb noted of the novel. It is abo...more
So I'm not actually finished. I've gotten to page, like, 168 out of 450 and I absolutely can not keep myself going.

When I first started, this novel seemed like the collaborative effort of C. S. Lewis and Mildred Benson (a.k.a. the original Carolyn Keene). But as it went on, it was just... bad. The quality of the narrative doesn't even come close to matching the above two authors. Is it sad to say that I would choose to read Nancy Drew over this any day?

In the end, I think the most apt word to d...more
This title was recommended by Mary at Novi as a good historical fiction/mystery/romance. We've had some nasty winter viruses at our house and I wanted an engaging read for those moments when I wasn't fetching ice chips, taking temperatures, etc. and was a great choice. (Thanks, Mary).

The story is set in England in 1795 and the pivotal events revolve around the political and military tensions between France & England. When the heroine inherits an estate from her estranged uncle she becomes e...more
Mary Finch knows that as an orphan with no inheritance and no family, she is fortunate to have received a teaching position at Mrs. Bunbury's school for girls. However, this knowledge doesn't keep her from chafing at the strict routine and overall boredom that prevails there. When she unexpectedly receives a letter from an estranged uncle, asking her to visit him at his estate in Suffolk, she doesn't think twice about leaving Mrs. Bunbury's behind. She wastes no time setting off, but her journey...more
It took me a while to adjust into this as it was not what I was expecting. It reads most like a slightly more mature Nancy Drew than anything else. Nancy Drew who has been dropped into Suffolk during the French Revolution. That being said, I do like Nancy Drew. My overall analysis is that it's a light, fun tale full of secret codes, spies, and a dash of romance. I probably would have adored it to bits at a slightly younger age.
The first time I read this I gave it five stars and now look. Wow. Anyway, this is a fairly decent historical mystery. However it did drag in places and the mystery was fairly obvious (and I had forgotten the outcome so I am not just saying that cause I remembered the culprit).

Overall, I would recommend this book, but I think it just doesn't hold up under repeated reading. The characters were a let down for me. I know Mary gets better throughout the series. But I just found her a little dull.

This book was just okay -- in an effort to make the main character, Mary seem niave and "in the dark" about what was occurring in the novel, the reader is also left out. The story was engaging, but full of holes. I wanted to like it more than I actually did like it.
Deprez is so well-read! But Holland rides horses and shoots guns! WHO WILL SHE CHOOSE?

(Cool things I learned from this book: Which countries have saltpeter (potassium nitrate), some plum duffs have medlars in them, the difference between ordnance and ordinance.)
Rex Schrader
I didn't expect to enjoy this book, since the setting didn't seem like my cup of tea. However, after enjoying the Maise Dobbs series of books by Jackeline Winspear, I gave it a shot.

I was very pleasantly surprised. Mrs. Melikan builds compelling, authentic characters and weaves them into into a historical accurate Great Britain - post French Revolution. This is an era that I have only recently become familiar with and it was illuminating to see the attitudes and concerns of the times illustrated...more
This started off really promising, and I really wanted to like it, but it tried to be too clever for itself, got too bogged down in different characters and clues and ended up becoming a disappointing let-down.
Mary Miller
"The Blackstone Key" is a historical mystery set in 1795 in England during the early stages of what became the Napoleonic Wars. Mary Finch, a young teacher at a girl's school, finds out that her wealthy uncle has died and she is possibly his heir. She sets off to her uncle's home and stumbles into a plot to send intelligence to the French. Mary, a quick-witted girl, figures out how to decipher the code using Blackstone's Commentary on the law. Of course there are handsome young men involved, but...more
I SLOGGED through this book (I actually don't know why I didn't put it down; I usually do that if it's slow reading). It wasn't until the last 100 pages or so that the book actually picked up. The author is good that way -- after I finished the book, I kind of wanted to read the second in the series, but then I remembered how sluggish it was for 2/3 of the first book and decided I didn't want to go through that again. Melikan's characters aren't especially well-drawn, either. You have the very d...more
Robyn Hawk
The Blackstone Key is everything I love in a novel set at the turn of the century (1800's), a headstrong, smart heroine and men in uniform!

BUT - this book takes this formula a step futher with situations based in historical fact. Set in 1795 amidst the constantly changing munitions and ordinance discoveries of the French and English scientists. The era lead to major French gunpowder experimentation and these tests provide a backdrop for this book.

Due to the well written history in this novel it...more
Just the fact that I have taken over a week to submit my review speaks volumes. This book was read mainly out of a sense of duty. It started as a ripping yarn, slowed to a watered down Pride and Prejudice and picked up towards the end. The central characters felt like those of a comfortable Sunday evening TV fare. The poor teacher who may or may not inherit a family mansion and the dashing captain felt tired clichés. Considering the academic background of the author, it felt a tired and lazy boo...more
Barbara Landes
It was fun, I enjoyed it. Some slow parts but the end was a real page turner, I put down everything else to gobble it up.
Andrea Jackson
This was really "behind closed doors" romance! They didn't even kiss untill the last page and then the incident was brushed. He bent his head-he lifted his head and she was blushing. I kid you not!

I was pretty well-written but I found myself having to go back all the time to reread something I thought I had missed. (But maybe that's just me!) It was just kind of torturous even though the grammar and sentence structure was fine.

I also lost patience with the hero who seemed might inept and unobse...more
This is a book I feel like I should have liked more than I actually did. It's got all the elements I like: historical era, potentially interesting heroine that does not necessarily do unbelievable things from start to finish, and, from what I gather, a fair amount of solid historical research. That said, I have picked this book up three of four times, before finally reading it, in a rather haphazard fashion. I like the idea enough to see what happens with the next books...
Carla Nayland
In 1795, England is at war with Revolutionary France, and young Mary Finch stumbles on a set of coded documents that may hold the key to a ruthless ring of spies selling the military secrets of England to the enemy. Can Mary break the code? And which of the two men in her life can she trust? A mix of lightweight espionage mystery, slightly gothic romance and mild social comedy.
Interesting... It seems like the author is trying too hard to write a "Jane Austen-ish" novel, being overly descriptive and using italics on every other word... If you cut out half of the boring descriptions it would pretty good. It's one of those books that you want to read but it's so difficult to because you're practically falling asleep the whole time. There really wasn't very much of a plot.
Il libro non è male, la storia è potenzialmente interessante e si vede che l'autrice ha fatto un bel lavoro di documentazione storica. Eppure... l'ho trovato lento e noioso all'ennesima potenza, tanto che ci ho impiegato oltre due mesi a finirlo, mollandolo e poi riprendendolo. So che ci sono altri due titoli successivi che ampliano la storia, ma non ci penso minimamente a procurarmeli :-D
Actually, I could not finish this book. I've gotten to page about 150 and I absolutely wasn't be able to continue.

The quality of the narrative is so dull, after reading 150 pages, still nothing was happening and seemed like never will.

There's no action taking place. Not to mention, the main characters are so boring

It is a book that might make you dislike reading. Not recommended
Got off to a great start and then kinda evaporated. Lots of foreshadowing that there is danger all around, but the heroine doesn't realize it might involve her until the last possible moment. There were certain plot twists that were never properly explained (or I was too sleepy when I was finishing it). Parts of it just didn't ring true. I kept expecting more, and it never quite delivered.
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blackstone key 1 9 Jan 01, 2009 04:25PM  
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Aka Rose A. Melikan

Rose Melikan was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in nearby Dearborn. She obtained degrees in English, Law, and History at the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago before moving to Cambridge, England in 1988 to complete her Ph.D. at Gonville & Caius College.

Since 1993, Rose has been a Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and she lectures on Briti...more
More about Rose Melikan...
The Counterfeit Guest The Mistaken Wife The Mistaken Wife: A Novel The Counterfeit Guest: A Novel John Scott, Lord Eldon, 1751-1838: The Duty of Loyalty

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