A decades-old costume event brings new trouble for a titled family and its tenants.
When a burst pipe destroys part of the Tudor wing of Honeychurch Hall, Rupert Honeychurch, the 15th Earl of Grenville, has to part with some of his artwork to pay for replastering the ceiling. He asks one of his tenants, antiques specialist Kat Stanford, to evaluate two historic drawings. A former London TV celebrity, Kat is beginning to enjoy life in rural Devon and is setting up her own shop. But she should know by now that in Honeychurch Hall, nothing is ever straightforward: her efforts to examine the framed drawings send her tumbling into a hiding place for priests, from the days when Honeychurch Hall was a Royalist sanctuary and a temporary mint for Charles I. Kat stumbles over a desiccated female corpse with a broken neck and the remnants of a fancy costume that, as it happens, Kat’s mother, Iris, had made back in 1958, when she was visiting as a member of a traveling circus. The Dowager Countess of Grenville was supposed to wear the outfit at the annual midsummer ball, but an American heiress, Pandora Haslam-Grimley, stole it, wore it, and wasn’t seen again—until now. The Honeychurches plan to do what they've done for past scandals and deaths in their house: close ranks and cover up, which could prove harder than they thought after Kat discovers that the drawings are involved in an insurance scam. Add to the mix an aging lothario, Iris’ ex-con stepbrother, Kat’s ex-boyfriend and his spiteful wife, and the attractive local detective who’s suspicious of both Iris and Kat—and it doesn’t augur well for the grand opening of Kat’s antique business.
The third in Dennison’s series of zany country cozies veers even closer to farce than its predecessors (Desire at Honeychurch Hall, 2015, etc.). It’s still enjoyable if you don’t think too hard.