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The Blackstone Key (Mary Finch #1)

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  672 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
It is 1795, and Mary Finch sets off to meet her wealthy uncle, hoping to heal a bitter family estrangement and perhaps to avoid a dismal career teaching at Mrs. Bunbury's school for young ladies. Eager for an adventure, she is soon embroiled in one of frightening proportions, for war is raging across Europe, England faces the threat of invasion, and some secrets are more v ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published 2008 by Not Avail
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, 2015-reads
Rating Clarification: 2.5 Stars

Author Rose Melikan is actually a very good writer; my 2.5 star rating doesn't reflect that. Rather, Melikan's rather meandering and overstuffed plotline lessened the appeal of this book for me personally. Tighter editing would have benefited this intelligent suspense novel.

May check out her subsequent books, but not anytime soon.

Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
Sophie Narey (Bookreview- aholic)
Author: Rose Melikan
Published: 01/01/2008
Recommended for: fans of historical fiction and fans of the book 'Jamaica Inn'

I thought that this was a brilliantly written and very intriguing book to read. It is set in 1795 in England where we follow the life and adventures of the main character Mary Finch, she is a character that it very easy to get along with, she is likeable and seems very realistic. All of the characters that feature in the book play an important part too the storyline there isn't
Jan 29, 2009 added it
Shelves: unfinished, mystery
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
Michelle Ryles
I bought this in a pack of 3 from The Book People quite a while ago and it got lost in my overflowing bookcase. When I noticed it, whilst rearranging (stroking) my books one day, my interest was piqued so I thought it was time for a spot of historical fiction.

The book started well as we join Mary Finch whilst she makes her way via coach to visit an uncle she has never met. I got the impression straight away that she is a confident, brave, intelligent young woman and couldn't imagine many women t
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's 1795, and England's at war with France. Orphaned but beautiful Cambridge schoolma'am Mary Finch gets a letter from her long-estranged wealthy uncle asking her to come visit him at his manor in Suffolk, but by the time the letter reaches her he has died (of natural causes). Something mysterious has been going on -- something involving smuggling, or French spies, or both. Mary learns the first part of the puzzle from the words of a man she comes across dying by the roadside after his carriage ...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
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
"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
Rachel Knowles
This is the first story in Rose Melikan's series about Mary Finch. Set in 1795, Mary, a schoolteacher, receives a message from an estranged uncle that sets her on a path to adventure. There is lots of historical detail, especially about the testing of gunpowder at the Woolwich laboratory. The narrative is fast-paced and there are some interesting characters. I particularly liked the dictatorial Mrs Tipton.

I would have liked Mary Finch's romance to have progressed a little further, but I did enj
Apr 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-books
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.
May 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: romancy-shmancy
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
Aug 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
What a slow-paced story...

I kind of understand that it is her debut novel, but this mystery book based in 18th century of England is just too slow. It was boring in the beginning, very laid back and yet relaxing in resolution. However, I review this book by putting aside my 'sexist' side and find Mary Finch is a typical gothic heroine. She is brave for a young lady at the time. She gets curious at every little thing. A sweet young maiden but very bright and likeable young lady, Mary Finch is.

Sreedevi Viswambaran
I picked up this book from a second hand book sale just because I loved the cover so much, The colors, the girl, everything about the cover were luring. Book started of well, with a young vulnerable, yet elegantly courageous Mary Finch starting her journey to white ladies. But as the story moves on, Mary Finch mostly turns into a childish character but thank god, not an irritating one.

Mary’s journey to while ladies, and initial few sequences were nice. Then story goes through a dull phase and cl
Aug 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Dec 08, 2016 rated it liked it
The Blackstone Key really did keep me guessing right up to the end. A decent mystery, likeable and realistic characters, and positive reviews on Goodreads helped in choosing this one to read. However, the next two books were not so well-received - frankly, they sound awful - and I have to decide how hard I want to look for them as neither are available at the library.
Billy Young
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Shala K.
Oct 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book, and its successor (Counterfeit Guest), hit just the right notes to satisfy my inner Catherine Morland.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
Dnf just got bored!
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of the historical fiction, that I read, is related to the medieval period. This book had an interesting premise, so I thought to give it a try. I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.

The heroine, Mary Finch, is extremely likable. She is intelligent. She enjoys reading & learning about things that women of her time were not supposed to be interested in. She has an inquisitive nature & is very perceptive, which makes her a good detective. She also
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
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
Feb 23, 2012 rated it liked it
"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
Rex Schrader
Nov 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
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
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

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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 about Rose Melikan...

Other Books in the Series

Mary Finch (3 books)
  • The Counterfeit Guest
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