A Viennese contretemps leads to murder in Edwardian London.
In 1909, Grace Thurley, disengaging herself from her fiancé, departs Birmingham to take up a position in London as secretary to wealthy widow Edwina Martagon and companion to her artistic daughter Dulcie. The family scion, Guy, recently returned from the subcontinent to settle his father’s affairs, quickly develops an attachment to Grace and just as quickly confides family secrets to her: that papa may have fathered an illegitimate child while scouting Vienna for treasures for his art gallery; that mama is being blackmailed about letters written to papa by some woman; and that papa’s vehement anti-firearm sentiments make his suicide by gunshot seem peculiar. Chief Inspector Lamb, who also suspects murder, is convinced that Martagon’s decease is linked to another suspicious death, that of artist Theo Franck, whose work was on exhibition in Martagon’s gallery. Artwork is examined. Parenthood is questioned. Lust, love and bohemian goings-on in Vienna are recounted. Meanwhile, a banker makes calf’s eyes at a certain Mrs. Amberley, who tries her best not to precipitate a scandal she’s powerless to stem.
Vienna in all its fin de siècle glory will make readers long for the possibility of time travel in this mystery-cum-pastry from veteran Eccles (Shadows and Lies, 2007, etc.).