A retired botanist turned amateur sleuth is called upon to investigate a murder at a stately home.
When a body is discovered on the grounds of Sturminster Hall, Dr. Lawrence Kingston is at first inclined to reject the plea of owner Francis Morley, the sixth Earl of Ramsbury, with whom he has had prior unpleasant dealings. But the chance of solving a puzzling crime and a very large emolument convince Kingston to sign on. The murdered man was a professor of archaeology and art whose body was found near a monument with a mysterious coded message that had never been solved. As if that isn’t mysterious enough, another coded message was found on the body. At length Kingston is contacted by Tristan Veitch, who’s amassed a great deal of information on the Morley family. Kingston’s chance to learn much from this promising source, however, is cut short by Veitch’s death by poisoning. When Veitch’s sister Amanda allows him to search the house, he finds what the police missed: a dog-tag computer drive that holds Veitch’s notes. Now it’s up to Kingston to crack an encrypted puzzle, a task that puts his life at risk.
Eglin’s mysteries (The Trail of the Wild Rose, 2009, etc.) are always full of interesting botanical and historical tidbits. His latest is reminiscent of Sayers’s Have His Carcase, right down to the long-winded explanation of how to solve a difficult cipher.