Book Review: Cordelia Frances Biddle’s The Conjurer

Posted July 24, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Cordelia Frances Biddle’s The Conjurer

The Conjurer

on June 10, 2008 and has 319 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Martha Beale historical mystery series and revolving around a newly orphaned woman, Martha. Set in 1842 Philadelphia.

My thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for providing this ARC for me to read.

My Take

As the page or percent indicator as to where I am in the book isn’t available, all I can say is I stopped at “I will be the mistress of my fate. I’ll rule my own house, and demand that Simms leave it.”

It starts off interestingly and too quickly descends into a morass of timidity and domination. Biddle takes way too long to turn Martha into a strong character — I’m assuming that Martha becomes a strong person simply because the series is about her as I still haven’t read far enough to find out.

She was too annoying to read. Yes, there is an interesting story in here with lots of possibilities and odd subplots, but the primary character, Martha, was the most stupid woman. Her actions, or rather the lack of actions, drove me nuts. I cannot stand the stupid trope, let alone the stupid woman trope. And what’s worse is that she doesn’t strike me as a stupid woman.

I’ll agree that the customs, styles, and manners of the time period feel very accurate. As for the romantic subplot…talk about long and drawn-out, tediously so.

Again, I did not finish this book, so I have no idea if the various subplots eventually tied back to Martha’s initial problem. Some of the other characters did seem to be tied in with her father and his business plans, but the crazy incidents that were occurring did not make me believe they could. It’s always possible that Biddle does manage to pull them in, but I’m not interested enough to suffer through this to find out.

The Cover and Title

Banded in red at the top and bottom, the cover is a blue tint with Martha and Thomas on opposite sides of the drive?, road? It’s an accurate reflection of society’s expectations of a single woman.

The title refers to the “magician” who sets Philadelphian society awry (at least that’s my interpretation based on how far I read).


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