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by Patricia Veryan

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-17121-8
Publisher: St. Martin's

 Another roistering Regency romance of mystery and suspense from the author of Lanterns (1996), among many, many others. Veryan fans will recognize some enjoyable staples here: a beset but tender-hearted hero, kind to children and animals; his entertaining chums; lively and irreverent servants; a set of noble nasties; and a heroine of Waspish waist and wit. There's also plenty of action, of course, and here the calamities confer on a supposedly haunted mansion, plus a murder or two and general mayhem. Captain Jack Vespa, only son of elegant Sir Kendrick, has returned from the horrors of Wellington's war in Spain with a game leg and a possible concussion. Sir K. is enraged that Jack, rather than lead a sensible idle life in London, intends to take over the crumbling family estate of Alabaster Royal in the village of Gallery-on-Tang. But Jack persists, and despite an attempt by someone to run him off the road, he not only moves in but rehires as caretaker a local rowdy (interviewed in the stocks). Eventually, Jack also hires on a gamey variety of theatrical servants, since no one in the village will come near the ``haunted'' mansion. Then there are the invaders who live in Alabaster Royal uninvited: an Italian duchess and her fiery-tongued, lovely granddaughter Consuela, who between rages explains that she's there to find the murderer of her father, the famous artist Preston Jones. Before long it appears to Jack that Consuela's suspicions might be well founded--especially after a strangling attempt, shots in the cemetery, and other distractions to peaceful country living. Meanwhile, two clever friends from the war enliven the sleuthing, and there'll be an exotic Indian lady, a cloisonnÇ vase, paintings with secret messages by Jones, and a dead gallery-owner. It all ends with a watery chase and a deadly surprise--and, naturally, an appropriate union. Very good Veryan. Jollity, junkets, and a juicy mystery.