The fourth book in the Victorian Mystery series, published in February 1998. This is a very bad photo, the real cover is light and pretty.
Together they solved the murders at the Countess of Warwick’s weekend house … and together they fell in love. Now newlyweds Charles and Kate Sheridan have moved into Kate’s ancestral Georgian home Bishop’s Keep, where Kate plans to devote herself to her writing and Charles to the responsibilities of the landed gentry. He agrees to host an automobile exhibition and balloon race at Bishop’s Keep attended by Europe’s foremost investors and inventors, among them the young Mr. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce.
But speed, competition and money prove to be more explosive than gasoline – and for one automobile builder, more deadly…
Sir Charles Sheridan is a renowned photographer, amateur scientist, and a skilled detective. Kate Ardleigh is his Irish-American wife and a writer of crime fiction. Together, they are unravelling Victorian England’s most intriguing and unusual mysteries.
Another great mystery by Robin Paige! This one concentrates on the start of the British Automobile Industry. Again with some then-famous characters as the secondary characters, and possible suspects.
Kate and Charles are married, against the wishes of his mother. She positively loathes Kate! But Charles is in love with Kate, so he married her. But when his brother dies, he will have to put up with her again, and live in his ancestral home in Somerset with Kate, his brothers widow and his mother. Let’s hope that day is not soon! He does not really want to take on the tasks belonging to a baron. He likes his own hobbies and pursuits.
Kate is also happy about being married, as she loves and respects Charles. But it also involves a lot of change. Charles has introduced electricity and gas to the house, and Kate is not so sure she likes all that. Her cook, Sarah, totally detests the new gas cooker, as she cannot get used to its workings. So dinner lately is not a joy.
Their friend Bradford Marsden is preparing an automobile exhibition on his parents estate, while they are in the south of France. But when someone tells them, he is expressively forbidden to do that, so he asks Charles for help. There will also be a balloon launch, which some of the cars will then chase, like the hare and the hounds. Of course there was not too much thought about that, the narrow and winding lanes are not really fit for racing motorcars, especially when the balloon can fly much faster than the cars can drive. A mishap will surely happen.
Right at the start of the event, which is also planned together with the annual fest for the villagers, there is a big uproar. Bess Gurton is almost run down by a speeding motorcar, and to safe herself, she has to jump in the ditch. Of course that makes her very mad, but then she finds the body of Old Jessup, who supposedly died of fright of the motorcar. So the villagers are totally against the event, and want to prevent it.
The four men who have arrived with their motorcars and who will race it, really dislike each other. So no happy company at dinner for Kate and Charles. A lot of drinking, a lot of sniping. And the young Mr. Rolls sure is a charmer, but also a daredevil who likes to bragg. Kate’s young friend Patty Marsden seems quite taken by him, and as he his a friend of her brother, they see quit a lot of each other, something her parents will certainly not condone! But the old great-aunt who is chaperoning her, doesn’t do her job very well.
Charles is to go up in the balloon with Mr. Rolls, where he is to take pictures of the sights and the race. A steam car, an electric car, and two cars with a combustion engine will race the balloon. To his chagrin, Bradford will not be racing his own car, a German driver will race it for him. He cannot change that, as he is in debt to Mr. Harry Dunstable, and he is pulling the strings of the show.
But just as the balloon is getting ready to lift, a bunch of villagers armed with pitchforks are trying to prevent it, and the balloon goes off, when not all has been checked. And as it happens, the anchor is gone. There is no way they can safely land the balloon now! As Kate gets word of Charles predicament, there is only one course of action for her: She will chase him herself in Mr. Rolls motorcar! Patty is determined to go with her, to make photographs.
And as it happens, not one of the four racers get to the finish line, where the balloon has finally landed. So what has happened to them? Slowly word gets back to Bishop’s Keep, but the German racer keeps missing …
I loved this book, wish I could have read it without stopping. But helas, work goes before the book. Both Charles and Kate are finding bits and pieces of the puzzle, what has really happened to the car? And to Mr. Dunstable?
Amelia and Lawrence are happily married, and living in a little cottage at Bishop’s Keep, where Amelia is the new housekeeper. Lawrence has been loaned by Bradford to Sir Charles, as part re-payment of the loan. And Sir Charles sure keeps Lawrence busy with the instalment of the gas and electricity, and the upkeep of the machinery. They love it here at Bishop’s Keep, but now Bradford is talking about moving back to London, and taking Lawrence with him as his chauffeur/engineer. There will be a place for Amelia too, and a room in the attic … But they don’t want to go, they want to stay, what now?
All in all, a fast paced mystery against an historical backdrop. Plenty of suspects, plenty of motive, so it takes a while to get to the truth of the matter. But in the end, the newfounded scientific approach of Sir Charles will have the last word.
If you have been interested in the history of car’s you will love this one even more. In the end there is an explanation of what really happened with the famous characters used in this book.