A plucky viscountess and a handsome Bow Street Runner team up for the second time to uncover the truth about a death among the English gentry in South’s eighth Regency tale (Of Paupers and Peers, 2006, etc.).
After the scandal of her husband’s murder (In Milady’s Chamber, 2006), Lady Julia Fieldhurst escapes London to the Yorkshire country house of Sir Gerald and Lady Anne Hollingshead. There she meets an utterly unsurprising cast of characters, including foppish young dandy Robert Kendall; darkly mysterious merchant Jasper Carrington from India; the baronet’s romantic daughter Emma Hollingshead; Colin Meriwether, the poor curate Emma loves; and tediously scholarly vicar Cyril Danvers. When the vicar promptly dies in a fire, Lady Fieldhurst, suspecting a murder, sends for her trusted friend John Pickett, a Bow Street Runner who disguises himself as her footman to avoid attracting attention. Amidst details of etiquette and discussions of the season, Lady Fieldhurst and Mr. Pickett manage to examine the body and uncover ancient family scandals even as their intrigue brings them ever closer together. The tidy resolution is satisfyingly appropriate. And if the pivotal clue is rather obvious, the flirtation between hero and heroine is so beguiling that they can be forgiven for overlooking it.
A meringue of a mystery: light, pleasant and so forgettable that, minutes after finishing it, you’re ready to enjoy another.