The cards say murder in Queen Victoria’s court.
Undertaker Violet Harper’s help with several past mysteries (Stolen Remains, 2014, etc.) has made her a favorite of the queen. Now Victoria has called upon her to attend a tarot reading by her favorite outdoor servant, John Brown, who claims the cards reveal a dangerous plot against someone in Buckingham Palace that only Violet can thwart. Violet’s American husband, Samuel, is in Wales promoting Alfred Nobel’s wondrous new invention, dynamite, to mine owners when he witnesses a massacre of innocents in a mine dispute. Samuel’s absence gives Violet, a guest of the queen, plenty of time to uncover the supposed palace plot. When several highborn ladies are found dead in mysterious circumstances, Violet discovers some tiny marks on their bodies, along with small pieces of odd-smelling cloth in two of their mouths. No believer in spirits, she’s certain that Brown’s séances are rigged but knows she must continue her investigation. The newly widowed husbands are prime suspects. So is a palace footman who’s an adherent of Karl Marx. Meanwhile, the free-spirited Princess Louise and her friends have gotten embroiled with a group fighting to repeal an unfair law that punishes prostitutes but not their clients. Any number of people learning of her involvement might have marked her for death. As she uncovers more information, Violet is attacked and narrowly escapes her own demise.
Filled with informative historical tidbits on some of the less salubrious aspects of Victorian times and plenty of red herrings but sadly in need of some judicious pruning.