It is December 1858 and, for the first time, Charlotte Richmond's life is blissfully settled and secure. Charlotte is living in Hampshire with her late, (and unlamented) husband's family. Her brother-in-law, his wife and their young son occupy the big house and Charlotte and her wealthy, good-hearted grandmother-in-law live in the Dower House. Only two things mar Charlotte's contentment: the illness of her dearest friend, Elaine Knightley and the ever-present fear that somebody from her shady past in Australia will appear to destroy her good reputation.
Her brother-in-law, Barnard, and his wife, Lily, are celebrating the christening of their infant son and have secured illustrious godparents for the child in the shape of Lord and Lady Granville, the most important family in the neighbourhood. Recently, scandal and fear have stalked the neighbourhood because Lady Granville's elderly personal maid has been found murdered. When Charlotte meets Lady Granville, she swiftly realises there are two things she cares about passionately: her young son, Oz, and the medieval garden she has created in the style of Queen Eleanor of Provence.
At the christening party, strange events occur. There is an unfortunate incident outside the church, involving a push of people and an open grave. At the party a guest is taken ill, but nobody suspects anything as he is elderly and not in good health. Far more serious is the death, the next day, of a healthy young lady, poisoned, apparently by the wassail cup that Barnard had served to his guests.
Charlotte is invited to visit Lady Granville and inspect her garden. She admires the garden and soon grows fond of young Oz Granville, a lonely, cosseted child. As the incidents continue, Charlotte comes to suspect that Oz is the intended target and is determined to make sure that he is safe. When Charlotte discovers who is behind the murders she finds herself in imminent danger and is forced to defend herself with a most unusual, not to say bizarre, weapon.
The Dead Queen's Garden is the third book in the Charlotte Richmond series and the author shows great skill in providing background information without revealing too much. It is a funny book, which often moves into farce, but it has a fast-moving mystery and some warmly engaging characters. It also contains all the average reader will want to know about historical subjects ranging from medieval gardens to rat-hunting. I have read the first two books and particularly liked the way the characters have grown and, in most cases, become more likeable as Charlotte's relationship with them grows warmer. The Dead Queen's Garden is fast-moving, humorous, historical crime story. It is a very good read and I would recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Find out more about Nicola at blog:www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013
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