Book Review: Face Down in a Marrow-Bone Pie (1997)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the murder mystery written by Kathy Lynn Emerson.

Synopsis: When the steward at a remote family estate dies under mysterious circumstances, Lady Susanna Appleton's husband, Robert, doesn't seem overly concerned and insists on letting his attorney handle it. However, when Robert is called away on a mission for Queen Elizabeth, Lady Appleton decides to defy her husband's orders, visit the property in person and fix it up while trying to learn the truth behind two deaths and a mysterious ghost that has scared away most of the servants.


I ended up picking out this book, mostly at random, when at the library several days ago. The book I had intended on checking out wasn't available and, instead of sulking about it, I decided to use it as an opportunity to change things up a bit.

From the description, the book did look somewhat intriguing. However, for some reason I wasn't able to explain, I did have a nagging doubt it wouldn't live up to expectations. As it turns out, the book fell somewhere in between.

Face Down in a Marrow-Bone Pie
Face Down in a Marrow-Bone Pie
Photo by Steven Helmer

I found I was kind of unimpressed about the murder mystery in general. Mostly because there weren't many characters in the book, it wasn't overly difficult to figure out who was responsible for both the steward's death and Susanna's father-in-law's death. And, despite efforts to at least try to keep the motive a secret, even that wasn't anything overly surprising.

In fact, as I read this book, I kept hoping there would be some sort of surprise twist that revealed one of Susanna's loyal servants or her husband were behind the deaths. Unfortunately, that just didn't happen.

Another thing I didn't like about the mystery was the decision to tell the story in a third-person, omniscient way. When murder mystery writers do that, they tend to give away too many details. Given the lack of potential suspects, I think this would have been better if it were told from a first-person perspective, either through Susanna's eyes or the eyes or the point of view of one of her servants.

I also wasn't a big fan of the way the book felt the need to constantly remind the reader this was taking place during Queen Elizabeth's reign and women were essentially property. It's one thing to establish that from the start. But, this subject kept getting brought up over and over again to the point I was saying "yes, we get the point!"

Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie: An Elizabethan Mystery (Elizabethan Mysteries)

"Today's letter was not a summons to serve Queen Elizabeth. It came from Lancashire. John Bexwith, my steward at Appleton Manor, is dead."Susanna frowned, surprised that this ne...

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With all that being said, I did find I enjoyed the individual characters in the book. Susanna was actually quite interesting, both in her disregard for the status quo (especially toward her husband) and in her overall general knowledge, especially when it came to poisons.

At the same time, she also had just enough flaws to make her believable, especially the way she would run toward a potentially dangerous situation without taking a moment to think things out, something that does almost get her killed in this book.

Even though he was largely a secondary character in this book, I did find her husband Robert equally (and potentially more) intriguing, mostly because it was hard to get a read on him.

At one moment, the adulterous Robert would treat his marriage as a nuisance, especially when it came to his desire to gain favor with the queen. But, there were also times when he at least hinted he cared for Susanna's safety. The fact he is obviously torn between those two things did make him a bit of a wild card in this book and would be enough to get me to read the next book just to see what happens next.

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Enjoy fashion and function with the Mylex Five Shelf Bookcase, which features two fixed and three adjustable shelves. It provides storage space for books, photographs, baskets o...

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Final Opinion

The murder mystery, as I said, could have used a bit more tweaking. However, thought the book had some strong, likable characters in it and, because of that, I did enjoy reading it enough to justify checking out the next book in the series.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 05/06/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/16/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
The "face down..." series is something that I began just before COVID restrictions. I remember seeing talk about making a film or a series from one or some of Kathy Lynn Emerson's books then. But I see nothing about that now. Would you happen to know anything about that possibility? What would you think of face down... as a film or as a series, mini or otherwise?

In a somewhat related, somewhat unrelated direction, what was the book that you meant to check out?

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