You know how at first you think you’re reading a decently wrought book with time travel and a mystery and a promise of romance and you end up realizing you’re reading a great and original take on some recognizable themes, stitched together beautifully? Usually, my reactions to a book along the lines of A Rip Through Time are, “that was good,” to “Eh,” and on to “why did I finish this?” Armstrong is obviously a best selling author and known to many, but she’s new to me and this was a wonderful debut novel! In 2019, Mallory Atkinson, a Canadian police detective, is staying with her dying grandmother in Edinburgh Scotland. While jogging, she hears what sounds like a woman in danger, goes to investigate and her life changes, possibly forever.
There is enough written about this novel for you to already know Mallory wakes up in a Victorian housemaid’s body. She is in the home of an unusual brother and sister, he a doctor turned funeral home owner, she a chemist (kind of a pharmacist but careful as a woman about who knows). It is 1869. A childhood friend, a criminal detective, has found Dr. Gray, can assist him in solving crimes, for he has become an early forensic scientist. And there is a murder to solve. Mallory, now Catriona, also has an attack to solve, Who tried to strangle the housemaid who formerly was in this body? Why doesn’t anyone trust her? How is she to navigate this era as this person she does not know? This novel is rich with historical observations about the social, scientific and physical differences of the world 150 years earlier than Mallory’s time. For example, fighting in layers of skirts and petticoats is challenging! “Antique” toys and books are new.
I like that Armstrong does not surprise us with things a character should not know. The backstories are solid. Mallory’s father is a literature professor and her mother a defense lawyer. This, along with her own training and work make her knowledge and skills comprehensible throughout the book. The mystery is fun, with well documented clues. The sister, Isla gets a glimpse of what freedom looks like for women in the future, at least as compared to 1869. The brother, Dr. Gray, is unusually progressive as to people in general and women. There’s a reason for this, of course. Wait and see. There is humor, like all the times Mallory’s weak grasp on what happened when in history causes her to talk about something that is not invented or discovered yet. The characters are interesting and promise much for the series. We don’t know what the future holds, but I want to know and I am certain I will give Armstrong’s other novels a serious look.