Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shelf Life [adult]


The Pigeon Pie Mystery, by Julia Stuart
@SPL: FIC Stuar
Having had his land and treasures seized by the English Crown, His highness the Maharaja of Prindur had moved to England, married an Englishwoman, and produced a little girl, Her Highness Princess Alexandrina (otherwise known as Mink). Still a little girl when her beloved mother dies, Mink is a grown up when her father dies under a scandalous cloud.
Abandoned by the man who was supposed to marry her, and left virtually penniless by her father’s extravagant lifestyle, her Majesty Queen Victoria takes pity on the young woman and gives her a home in the apartments of Hampton Court Palace. For those who remember Julia Stuart’s first book, which was set in the Tower of London, The Pigeon Pie Mystery’s Hampton Court Palace has just as many odd-duck characters who find themselves thrown together in a less-than-traditional living arrangement.
There is the lovely Countess, with a taste for sherry and thriftiness who refuses to throw off mourning for a husband long-gone; the doctor who assumed his courtly neighbours would be prompt in paying bills (they aren’t); the paranoid gatekeeper Mrs. Boots who hates chilly weather, gossips even as she condemns it and swears she sees monkeys in red pants; and Pooki, Mink’s determined and devoted lady-in-waiting who wants nothing more for her mistress than to settle down with a man who truly loves her.
Things get a little sticky for Mink and Pooki when the odious resident General croaks at the annual Easter picnic – after eating a pigeon pie produced by Pooki. After the most inept inquest imaginable, the General is found to have died of arsenic poisoning, and the police point the finger at Pooki. Since Inspector Guppy has the brains of his name, Mink is determined not to lose her too, and with the flair of a royal she delves into the secret lives off all the residents of Hampton Court.
Because although the residents may be high born and formerly rich, even the haughtiest hearts are human, vulnerable, and as Mink learns, desperate to find peace and happiness. The Pigeon Pie Mystery is Julia Stuart’s second novel, just as rich in historical details and a must for anyone who loves the dry humour of British comedies with quirky characters.
This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on September 20th, 2012. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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