Princess Alexandrina, also known as Mink, daughter to the deceased Maharaja of Prindur, is used to the lavish lifestyle of a princess. After her father’s death, however, she discovers that her father’s spending habits, and a little of her own, have landed her in a pile of debt and the government is demanding she turn over her home to help pay the debts.
When Queen Victoria offers Mink and her maid, Pooki, a grace-and-favor home at Hampton Court Palace, Mink accepts. Pooki is very superstitious and the rumors that the palace is haunted frighten her, but she is determined to stay with Mink. At first things aren’t all that bad, Mink and Pooki both manage to make some friends among the other grace-and-favor residents.
When they are invited to an annual picnic, Pooki makes pigeon pie for the occasion. After the Major-general, an odious man who no one seems to like, dies of arsenic poisoning, all evidence points to Pooki and her pigeon pies. Can Mink solve the mystery behind the Major-general’s murder in time to save Pooki from the gallows?
This book was a delightful surprise. The first half of the book is very informative of the life of Mink, her maid, Pooki, and the general habits and ways of life in the Victorian era. I also had never heard of the grace-and-favor apartments before reading this novel, which I found very interesting. I had no idea that such a place existed.
The characters come across as unique, if nothing else. Mink’s family history compounded two separate ways of life very nicely and her maid, Pooki, was a very entertaining character with all of her many superstitions and her abnormally large feet. Her background story is unlike any I have found before and helps make her such a unique character. Personally, my favorite character was Pooki.
This book is a kind of historical cozy mystery. Mink is our primary investigator as she rushes to find the truth in order to save Pooki’s life. Her investigative skills are interesting, and for me, slightly boring. The majority of this novel does not focus on the solution of who murdered the Major-general and seems to focus much more on the everyday life of Mink and her neighbors. This was a little annoying, not that the new information was not interesting or helpful but because there was supposed to be a mystery and for half of the book there wasn’t one.
All in all, I enjoyed this novel and found it interesting. I would give it three out of five stars. As far as I am aware, it is a standalone novel and not part of a series. Though this book was a standalone, I may attempt to read more Julia Stuart novels in the future.
I would recommend this novel to fans of historical cozy mysteries.
I bought my copy of this novel at my local Habitat for Humanity and have received permission from the publishers at Doubleday to use an image of the cover artwork above.
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