Royal-watchers spanning back to the days of William Pitt.
George IV, licentious, rowdy, syphilitic heir to his papa’s maladies, clearly needs a minder. So William Pitt sends Major Mearns and Sgt. Denny to Windsor to spy on castle goings-on. There’s little to keep them occupied but consuming fine food and drink and admiring Mindy, a castle factotum, until a young scalawag named Charlie is thrown a few bob to deliver a package to them. The gruesome contents are two severed legs. Soon enough, Charlie delivers another parcel containing the head of one of their wartime companions. But where’s the rest of him, where was he dispatched, and by whom? Not trusting the Windsor peacekeepers to handle the matter, Mearns and Denny, aided by Charlie’s keen intuition, snoop around the theater and its troupe and are soon awash in dead bodies, one strangled, one burnt, another with his throat cut, plus a dead infant and even a dead doggy. Are the deaths related? Did someone make use of theater costumes as disguises? All will be settled amiably, leaving Mearns and Denny to further contemplation of the charming Mindy and Charlie on his way to London as a storyteller.
The second in the Major Mearns series (The King Cried Murder, 2000) from old hand Butler, better known for her John Coffin series, is undemanding fare with a soupçon of theater background, palace intrigue and Dickensian hogwash.