Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Boston, 1764

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

Blindspot

A Novel by a Lady in Disguise
& a Gentleman in Exile

by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore

A well known anti-slavery Bostonian is poisoned leading to the imprisonment of his two slaves. The only people concerned with this miscarriage of justice are three highly unusual characters - Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter fleeing his debtors in Edinburgh, Fanny Easton, a lady fallen on bad times and now disguised as “Francis Weston,” the painter’s male apprentice, and Ignatius Alexander, a highly educated fugitive slave. The work of ferreting out the real murderer is executed by Ignatius Alexander, whose motivation to reveal the injustice of the institution of slavery is, after all, the most keenly felt. But plucky Fanny plays enough of a part to warrant inclusion in our list of heroine sleuths.

Since both authors are American history professors, we have to accept their premise that the characters could indeed have conducted their lives in so seemingly modern a manner. Fanny’s questioning of a woman’s place and its limitations was very much a part of the 18th century Enlightenment, and she is drawn from a female American artist, Sarah Goodrich. The erudite Ignatius Alexander resembles the real life Boston intellectual Doctor Ignatius Sancho.

Descriptions of everyday Boston life on the eve of the American revolution fill the pages. Citizens take sides arguing over the presence of British troops, the imposition of the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, and the abolition of slavery. Using the style and slang of eighteenth-century novels, the book is sprinkled throughout with excerpts from historic notices, poems, ballads, portraits, philosophical treatises, and so forth, making it an historians delight.

The authors suggest a visit to their a web site where they explain their sources and give an extensive bibliography. www.blindspotthenovel.com

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