Genre: historical (cozy) mystery
Major Robert Kurland has returned to the quiet vistas of his village home to recuperate from the horrors of Waterloo. However injured his body may be, his mind is as active as ever. Too active, perhaps. When he glimpses a shadowy figure from his bedroom window struggling with a heavy load, the tranquil façade of the village begins to loom sinister…
Unable to forget the incident, Robert confides in his childhood friend. Miss Lucy Harrington. As the dutiful daughter of the widowed rector, following up on the major’s suspicions offers a welcome diversion - but soon presents real danger.
I do love historical (cozy) mysteries, there is just something about the slow pace of the story, the characters who have to act within their social time frame, that appeals to me.
Major Robert Kurland has come home from Waterloo with a severely broken leg, and is recuperating at home. It is not healing well, and he is tired of being sick and in bed, and being taken care of by his butler and his valet (who is his former Sergeant). One night he wakes up in a moonlight lit room from a laudanum induced sleep, and wants to close the curtains. He can hardly stand on that broken leg, and is in tremendous pain, but Robert is stubborn, and manages to get to the window.
Then he spots a strange man lurking on his grounds. What is he lurking about for, and what is he dragging with him? But then his strength gives out, and Robert collapses. None of the servants hear him call, and it isn’t until morning that he is found and put back to bed.
The next day, miss Lucy Harrington calls upon the Major, as her father makes her do that, even though it is laundry day and she needs to oversee the maids. When he asks her if something has happened in the village, she has not heard anything on her daily round of visits, but she will inquire. Back home though, she discovers one of the maids has gone missing. She has taken off with all her possessions, but without asking for her back wages, or telling Lucy what she was about to do. Did she go to London with her new friend Daisy, or did she run off with a man? Lucy is really worried, and determined to find out what happened that night, especially now that she has come home with blood on her gloves. What did she touch on the way home that she did not notice the blood?
Lucy is 25 now, and really wants a husband and a house and children of her own. Ever since her other died, she has taken care of her father and her siblings but without any real authority over them. She is especially exasperated about the cook who keeps defying her. Of course, the cook supplies the rector with more than just his meals, and is confident in her position. And Lucy’s father keeps lecturing Lucy on her duty to him and her family, and doesn’t want to loose his free housekeeper.
Her younger brother Anthony is also not telling his sister what he is up to, and when she finds an unknown snuff box in his jacket pocket while she is sewing on a button for him, she is afraid he is in trouble again.
Making inquiries into the happenings in the village and surrounding more important houses, Lucy becomes aware that there has been a lot of theft of small items lately. There is of course one obvious culprit, but he would not have had access to the houses. His young son might know some more, and so Lucy asks the Major to employ him. He is a good kid, and not like his father at all.
When the Major’s fiancée suddenly shows up with his aunt, Robert is dismayed. He doesn’t know what possessed him when he proposed three years ago, and his fiancée is obviously not happy with him being an invalid either. She is very beautiful, but that is all on the outside. She is a snob, and looks down on Lucy. She is only interested in Robert for his money. Still, Robert is a gentleman, and he cannot break the engagement.
It was really strange at first, to read a murder mystery when there was no corpse found until the last few chapters. I had my suspicions about some people and things that were happening, and I was party right. I liked Lucy, she did have to act with propriety, and she is determined to defy her father and have a Season. Especially now he has made plans for her younger and more beautiful sister, who is 20. With the twins of to school, and her brother Anthony off to Cambridge, or the army as he rather would do, her father won’t need her as much.
Of course he would love to see her marry to his curate, Edward, who does most of his parochial work for him while the rector is off with his horses/hunters. Lecturing Lucy about duty, and shirking his own when possible.
I liked her interactions with the Major a lot. He is not an easy patient, and used to issuing orders, and Lucy will have none of that. She challenges him, to at least get out of bed and sit in a chair, and even to have a wheeled chair build so he can go outside. Lucy is smart, and I liked how they worked together.
I do look forward to reading the second book someday. I don’t know if there is a hint of romance in the air, or not. Lucy seems determined to go to London for a Season with her friend and her friend’s mother, to find her own husband.
For a debut book, I really enjoyed this one and recommend it.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian