The financial underpinnings of the Inns of Court in Victoria’s day.
Queen’s Inn, the smallest, some say the wealthiest, of the Inns of Court, is holding its annual Whitelock Memorial Feast attended by members of chambers and their guests. It is there that one of its barristers sitting at the head table, Alexander McKendrick Dauntsey, falls face down in the poisoned Borscht Romanov. Called in to investigate by Queen’s Inn Treasurer Barton Somerville, Lord Francis Powerscourt is intrigued by the murder but loathe to leave the side of Lady Lucy and their newborn twins. But since the family will need nappies and larger digs, Francis sallies forth and quickly identifies five possible suspects: Dauntsey’s stunning widow; Porchester Newton, his rival in the chambers’ backbencher election; a certain Mrs. Cavendish, a former chorus cutie now cuckolding a dying doctor; the doctor himself; and Jeremiah Puncknowle (pronounced Punnel), whom Dauntsey was prosecuting for major fraud. When Dauntsey’s co-counsel Robert Woodford Stewart is shot dead, Francis enlists friends and relatives as well as the chambers clerk and stenographer, lovelorn Edward and sweet Sarah, to help him solve the crimes. All comes out right, but not before poor Francis takes a bullet to the chest and almost succumbs.
Dickinson (Death of a Chancellor, 2005, etc.) charmingly explains teatime, cricket innings, punting on the Thames and the drawing up of wills, all within the confines of a classic Victorian whodunit.