The second book in the Victorian Mystery series, published in 1995.
Kathryn Ardleigh is everything the Victorian English gentlewoman is not – outspoken, free-thinking, American … and a writer of the frowned upon “penny-dreadfuls”. She shocked her ancestral home at Bishop’s Keep – and capture the interest of detective Sir Charles Sheridan as they solved their first case together.
Now the brutal demise of a local constable and the mysterious disappearance of a child have the sleuthing couple on the trail of deadly greed and criminal mischief once again. And with the help of a shy young woman who calls herself Beatrix Potter, Kate intents to uncover the sinister secrets of Gallows Green…
When Laurence, a footman of the Marsdens, and Amelia, Kate’s maid, are trying to find a quiet spot away from the party for some frolicking, they stumble upon a dead body. The local constable, Arthur Oliver, has been murdered!
In the meanwhile, Kate is bored to death at a houseparty where she has been invited to at the request of her friend Eleanor Marsden, now married to mr. Ernest Fairley. Until she meets a young woman her own age, named Bea, who has some very unfashionable pets. A mouse, a hedgehog, and a rabbit.
Miss Beatrix Potter is very glad to have escaped her parents’ home, as they are very strict. She would love to write and illustrate children’s book, but her father is dead-set against it, and her mother always agrees with him. All she wants is to make enough money for her self to buy a little cottage, and have time to write and paint and study what ever interests her. So when she learns Kate is a published author, she is very impressed. When Kate finally is able to leave for home, Bishop’s Keep, she invites Beatrix the accompany her. Beatrix longs for the country, and some adventure, as does Kate, and they do get along famously. For the first time in her life, Beatrix can do as she pleases, go visiting and riding with Kate (who even rides a bicycle, dressed in Bloomers!), and what she likes most: hang out in the kitchen and sketch the happenings there. At home she is never allowed in the kitchen.
The murder is just the thing Kate needs to start writing her next book. Of course she is very sorry for Agnes Oliver, the dead man’s widow and a good friend of hers. And she will do everything she can to find out the truth about the murder, especially when the pension Agnes is allotted as her husband was killed in the line of duty, is in danger.
Edward and Charles are also investigating. Arthur was a good friend of Edward, they both are constables, and good ones at that. So when Edward is officially removed from the case, and an inexperienced young constable gets it, they just keep at it unofficially. Edward has been in love with Agnes for years, and his friend just beat him to the bush when it came to marriage. But now she needs his help, and he will help her anyway he can.
Some very unsavoury characters are involved in this mystery, but with the help of little Elisabeth Oliver, they find out the truth about the why of the murder. Kate and Beatrix are the ones who keep finding the clues, and when Charles and Edward are not reacting fast enough, they decide to take matters in their own hands. And a good thing they did, too. Kate has some very good ideas, and Sir Charles is very impressed with her. Concerned about her safety, yes, but he wouldn’t want her to change anyway. But then he thinks his friends both are courting Kate, and he steps down for him. But isn’t that choice up to Kate?
This book really has a lovely cover, this picture is a bad one. It depicts a lovely little cottage in the background, surrounded by meadows and flowers, and a hedgehog and rabbit (wearing glasses) in the front. Of course you all have heard of the famous children’s book author Beatrix Potter and her famous stories about Peter Rabbit and other lovely creatures. It was so much fun to meet her in this book, have Kate and her become good friends.
The mystery part was good. Detecting and forensic methods are still in baby stage, so the fact that Sir Charles is taking pictures of the body and the murder scene, is not much appreciated yet. But the goings on in the court of the Coroner are very well told, a really realistic picture of that time.
I just plain loved this book, and read it as fast as possible. Now I have to wait for my next salary, and then I will purchase the rest of the series. Can’t wait to read more of those great little cozy’s. I just love Kate, her indepence, and her starting feelings for Sir Charles. The lives of the common people and of the gentry in the county.
The mysteries themselves are very well written and thought out, and the characters are very lifelike and likable. But the biggest plus is the time of the setting. I just plain love it.