Lord Charles Danvers and his wife, Antonia, are content at their home in their country house with their adored baby, Charlie. Danvers is unwilling to accept an invitation from his younger brother, Freddie, to visit him and stay in Yorkshire. Freddie has indicated that he has a problem that he wants his brother to solve and Danvers suspects this involves an indiscretion, even though Freddie is a vicar.
Disaster strikes when a wing of Danvers’ house burns down, and he is injured. Following this, Danvers and Antonia decide to accept Freddie’s invitation to stay with two of his wealthy parishioners while their house is renovated, and Danvers recovers from his injuries.
Freddie’s problem is far from the indiscretion that Danvers was anticipating. In his role as vicar, Freddie helps with the work of the Magdalen House in the centre of a slum area of York. The Magdalen House is a place of refuge for poor women, many of them prostitutes, to have their babies in a place of safety and relative comfort, where they can receive some medical help. Many well-born women help by volunteering at the Magdalen House, including the Danvers’ hostess, Lady Wandsley and the patroness of the Magdalen House, the domineering Lady Billington. Freddie has called on Danvers for help because more women are dying at the Magdalen House than is reasonable, even in such a sick and vulnerable community, and, even worse, a well-born volunteer is showing signs of extreme ill-health. Freddie fears that somebody is deliberately causing these deaths and, unless the culprit is discovered, the Magdalen House will be forced to close down.
Danvers and Antonia go to the Magdalen House to investigate and are shocked by the world of suffering, poverty and degradation that they had never considered from the security of their pampered and privileged lives. Soon they are both volunteering at the Magdalen House and the soup kitchen that feeds the poor of the neighbourhood.
Nevertheless, they find time to spend a day or two attending a celebrated trial for murder. The trial is that of William Dove, who is accused of poisoning his wife and whose mental health in a key point of the trial.
As Danvers and Antonia draw nearer to the truth about the deaths connected to the Magdalen House it becomes clear that nobody is safe from the poisoner and it becomes a race against time to unmask the villain before they too become victims of the killer.
A Tincture of Murder is the fourth in the Lord Danvers Investigates series. It is a lively, easy to read book with an interesting mix of fact and fiction and an account of the trial of William Dove, one of the first times that the accused person’s mental health was offered as a mitigating circumstance in an English trial for murder.
Reviewer: Carol Westron