Genre: cozy mystery
The ancient park surrounding what is now Blenheim Palace is said to be the place where Henry II carried on his liaison with Rosamund – who perished, many suspect, at the hands ot Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now, as Charles and Kate Sheridan arrive in 1903, at the invitation of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, it is the site of a new mystery.
As Kate labors on a book about the legendary love affair, she is distracted by the disappearance of a household maid – and Charles discovers that a mysterious woman seems to be offering the famous Marlborough Gems for sale. Then the duke and his teenaged mistress vanish – and soon Winston Churchill and the young T.E. Lawrence make appearances as intrigue, and history, repeat themselves…
Kate and Charles Sheridan are invited to Blenheim Palace by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The Duchess is an American heiress, Consuela Vanderbilt. She was matched to the Duke at a very young age by her overbearing mother, even though she was in love with some one else. The Duke desperately needed her money to keep up Blenheim Palace, which is the only thing in his life he loves.
Their marriage is very unhappy for the Duchess, who feels like a prisoner in Blenheim Palace, which is beyond huge, and always cold. Even though it has the loveliest view in all of England. Her husband does not even like her, and is always belittling her and ridiculing her. She would love to do some more charity work, but even that is not permitted. She is not to do anything different than his mother and grandmother before her. But Consuela has done her duty to the Duke, giving him a heir and a spare, and now they are almost ready to be send of to boarding school.
The Duke though has fallen in love with an other young American girl, but is this Gladys Deacon really this innocent and naïf young girl, or she is a conniving little thief? Consuela cannot feel it in her to dislike the vibrant and charming Gladys, she totally blames her husband who should now better. They will not be able to divorce, as he needs her money for Blenheim. And a separation will cause too big a scandal.
Also in residence is Winston Churchill, a friend of Charles, who is busy writing a book about his illustrious father, Sir Randolph Churchill. The Duke is his cousin, and Blenheim is his house as well. He will do anything to protect the family name of scandal, and he doesn’t like the duke’s behaviour with young Gladys.
But belowstairs, things are not going well either. A young housemaid has gone missing, leaving all her clothes and even her wages behind. Surely she cannot have run off like that. One of the footmen, Alfred, has an eye on her, they have served together before they came to Blenheim, and he is totally in love with his Kitty. But Kitty had other ideas of her future, she is sure to be rich very soon. And Alfred was just a nice diversion for a few days between jobs. Just before she disappeared, Kitty was seen talking to a red-bearded man at the local pub …
Charles Sheridan has a second reason to coming to Blenheim. He has recently solved a large theft for the Ashmodean museum, and now the curator tells him of a disguised woman trying to sell him some stones that clearly belong to the famous Marlborough collection. Collected by the fourth duke, and squandered by the seventh. But perhaps some stones have survived the sale. The curator doesn’t trust things, and has asked Charles to look into it. Which Charles ofcourse agrees too. And he might need the help of young Ned (T.E. Lawrence), one of the museums students, who has a thing for archaeology and is very bright and smart. Charles likes him.
After a strange scene at the diningroom table, Gladys is missing the next day, her bed not slept in. And her other admirer, Northcote, has gone in the middle of the night, taking the six o clock train to London. What happened to Gladys? The duke wants her found, and he orders Charles to find her! So with the help of his beloved Kate (and Beryl ofcourse) Charles sets out to find the truth about it all. What has the missing housemaid to do with the missing Gladys? And is Gladys missing, playing a dangerous game, or did something bad befall her?
Almost at the end of the book, a body is fished out of the lake ….
A great mystery, and this one did not start with a body found. But still a mystery had to be solved, or perhaps more than one. And a ring of thieves has their sights set on the Royal houseparty that will take place in a few weeks. Can Charles and Kate prevent a scandal from happening in time? Because a houseparty will mean a house in disarray, dozens of strange servants roaming the hallways, and no security to speak off. The King loves for is guests to be decked out in their best jewellery and stuff, which means lots of opportunities for a clever thief. What happened to Kitty? Does Alfred knows more? And is Gladys innocent or a schemer?
As always, a great mystery against an historical background. I loved it, also as usual. Kate and Charles are so great together, and apart from each other, they find clues that together make a whole story. Winston Churchill plays a small role in this book, as does T.J. Lawrence. The famous desert warrior! He was just a boy back then, but passionate about archaeology. I have to admit, I was very happy with the epilogue written, explaining what happened with all the main players in the book. Consuela did legally separate from her husband, and later one even divorced him, and lived very happy ever after. The coldhearted Duke married his Gladys when she was 40, and she was miserable until he died, and she died old and all alone, hated by everyone.
If you like historical cozy mysteries, I can for sure recommend this series.
Robin Paige is one of my favourite cozy authors, the writing team of husband and wife Bill and Susan Wittig Albert. And I am very sad that I have only 1 more book to go in this great series. I keep hoping they will relent and write another one. Can I keep labelling them autobuy author if they don’t write this series anymore?
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian