Most people probably have some notion that Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales, was an uninhibited adulterer (his liaison with Lilly Langtry was notorious). Many fewer know that his son Eddy, né Victor Albert, was equally dissolute. Dickinson begins this debut historical mystery by assuming these facts about Victoria’s family and considering what would happen if blackmail and murder were added to the mix. Lord Francis Powerscourt’s reputation as a discreet investigator has earned him the ambivalent honor of being called in by Sir William Suter, the Prince’s Private Secretary, and the Treasurer and Comptroller of His Royal Highness’s Household, General Sir Bartle Shepstone, to investigate anonymous extortion letters sent to the Prince of Wales. Although they’re addressed to the elder Prince, his son might well be the real target of the blackmailer’s ambiguous threats. When Powerscourt proposes a hard-nosed investigation, Suter backs off—until the morning Prince Eddy is found with his throat cut. Powerscourt investigates the murder, a crime that he cannot reveal, for he is roped into a conspiracy to report that Eddy’s death resulted from influenza, the historically given cause for the young Prince’s demise.
Dickinson textures his canvas with historical detail as thick as the oil paint on one of his favorite paintings by Turner, delineated in prose sometimes as cumbersome as Her Royal Highness’s most famous edicts. Something like a masculine Anne Perry novel that finally collapses from the sheer weight of the tragedy and immorality perpetrated by the two Princes.