An all-female Welsh detective agency takes on a case of reverse robbery.
A pound’s worth of plumbing equipment would have saved some priceless books from water damage in the library of Henry Devereaux Twyst, the 18th Duke of Chellingworth, and spared Twyst a spot of bother, too. He has to call in Bryn Jenkins, a local bookseller in Hay-on-Wye, to do the restoration. Although Jenkins can restore the duke's books to practically their original condition, he has something on his mind, and it’s not retailers’ customary worry that people are stealing inventory from his Crooks and Cooks Bookshop. In fact, person or persons unknown are dropping off books, among them several copies with miniatures by local artist Lizzie Llewellyn. Because she was the subject of a recent and highly sensational trial, the books could bring Jenkins and his daughter, a former celebrity chef, a tidy sum if the artwork’s provenance can be authenticated. Henry’s mother, the Dowager Duchess Althea, knows just the people to help: the four women of the WISE Enquiries Agency. In fact, she shares quarters with Mavis, a retired Scottish nurse who is the practical member of the agency. Carol juggles caring for a new baby and setting up a surveillance system to find out who’s furtively dropping off the books. Christine, daughter of an impoverished Irish viscount, uses her social connections to glean more information, and Annie, who comes from St. Lucian by way of London’s East End, provides the nickname for the case. Although Althea performs brilliantly when she turns undercover dowager in a senior-residence sting, it’s Carol, the only Welsh native in WISE, who discovers an architectural detail about the local university and raises a startling new possibility about a past crime.
Ace (The Corpse with the Ruby Lips, 2016, etc.) reveals too much too soon but still delivers a pleasant mélange with a garnish of death and danger.