A chance to get back at an old enemy puts a principled sleuth in a difficult position.
Atlas Catesby has never been truly happy since the older sister he adored fell down a staircase and died. Phoebe was in a loveless marriage with Malcolm Lennox, Marquess of Vessey, and Atlas is convinced that her husband murdered her. Lennox never remarried but kept Wendela Pike as a mistress for many years, and her fatal shooting in a crowd outside the opera house in Covent Garden—where Atlas was coincidentally also emerging from the performance—gives Atlas the opportunity to investigate and perhaps get justice for his sister. Atlas’ companion the night of Wendy’s death was Lady Lilliana Sterling Warwick, whose connections and intellect make her a perfect partner for solving mysteries (Murder in Bloomsbury, 2018, etc.). Atlas loves Lilliana but is convinced that his modest wealth and lower social position make him unworthy of her. Before her death, Wendy bore Vessey two young daughters whom Atlas knew about, but he's surprised to learn that she also bore him a son, Francis, who's older than Phoebe's son, Nicholas, Viscount Beaumont, who will inherit the title and estates. Wendy seems to have been loyal to Vessey, but her life was more complicated than it appeared. Her excellent singing voice had garnered her offers from several theatrical managers that would have allowed her to leave Vessey, who refused to settle on her a sum of money that would have protected her and her children. She’s rumored to have had an affair with a Russian diplomat, and a clergyman obsessed with her insists that she was about to marry him. Lilliana pursues a friendship with Atlas, who seeks to protect her from unseemly gossip but is forced to accept her help in keeping track of the many members of the aristocracy who might be involved—especially his nephew, Nicholas, who may have hated Wendy enough to kill her.
A multifaceted mystery/romance with plenty of believable motives for the likable sleuth to investigate.