Elsa Hart’s historical Asian series set a standard for creating an atmosphere in a foreign setting, coupled with plotting that gives the reader suspense and shows the mores of the culture of the time.

She turns that same eye for historical detail from 18th century China to London in 1703 in The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne.

It’s a time when men wear wigs, and science has beckoned to collectors of strange objects in what is perhaps an attempt to understand the wonders of the world. Magic and merman rest alongside the known science of the day.

Lady Cecily Kay’s passion for plants brings her to the household of Sir Barnaby Mayne, whose huge collection has been garnered from across the globe and covers objects, books, maps and artifacts he’s gathered.

It’s the envy of many, who wish to acquire similar collections. Collectors, Cecily soon learns, can have their needs become obsessions.

With Cecily’s husband at his post in Smyrna, she has been extended an invitation into the Mayne household to identify plant specimens she’s brought with her. What she doesn’t expect is for her host to be killed.

With a confessed killer awaiting death in gaol, Cecily will lead an investigation into what has really happened in a house where the collections inspire greed, at a time when women’s roles were highly circumscribed.

A period mystery with an intelligent protagonist, who must battle a fascination with the fantastical alongside scientific principles to unmask a killer.