Today Kaye George delves into a historical mystery set in 1869. Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent is the fifth book in the A Lady Of Ashes Mystery Series which began with Lady Of Ashes.
Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent
This delightful historical mystery captured me on the first page and never let go. I know that description is used a lot, but it’s very true for this book.
Violet Harper, a series character, is a female undertaker in London in 1869. She and her husband Sam are in North Nottinghamshire and have been for four weeks while he tried to get a coal mine started. He’s having trouble finding enough workers because the 5th Duke of Portland routinely employs hundreds of locals for building projects on his property, Welbeck Abbey. When the Duke’s valet, Pearson, shows up and requests that she come to the estate on a mission that he can’t seem to state coherently, she raises a few objections, but ends up going. It turns out that she is being asked to prepare a raven for burial!
Her ministrations are interrupted, though. Things continue to get weirder and weirder, as first one worker, then another are found dead. Violet knows they’ve been murdered, but can’t convince anyone else of this. Sam gets invited to demonstrate the new technique of dynamite blasting for the underground tunnels, ballroom, chapel, unused guestrooms, and such that the Duke is having constructed, so he’s on the scene eventually. No one ever uses the ballroom, the chapel, or the many beautifully decorated guestrooms. I got a kick out of the continuously roasting chickens, too.
The Duke was presented as such an oddball, I had to look him up. A detailed Author’s Note in the back also gives information on him and other actual historical people and places that are used in the story. From the light research I did, that Duke was even stranger than portrayed here!
Seemingly disconnected deaths and other happenings keep occurring, but the author masterfully tied everything together in the end to create a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Eine Kleine Murder, for Suspense Magazine