The Pigeon Pie Mystery, Julia Stuart
Doubleday, 313 pages
Princess Alexandrina, the daughter of the exiled Maharaja of Prindur and an English noblewoman, has always lived a life of privilege in Victorian England. Raised in a household with gardeners and servants, educated at Cambridge, and moving in the highest circles of society, Princess Alexandrina accepted luxury as the norm. It is hardly surprising that she was nicknamed “Mink” for her predilection for falling asleep among her mother’s furs.
When her father is found dead in an opium den, lying on top of the woman who cleans his boots and knives, London is abuzz with scandal. And when the family solicitor makes it quite plain that the Maharaja owed a staggering amount of debt, Mink realizes she is penniless. She sells the house to clear financial obligations, dismisses all the household staff except for her own personal maid, and accepts the offer of a grace-and-favour residence at Hampton Court Palace.
Life at Court is far from perfect. Mink’s apartment has six bedrooms but no bathroom, smells of mould, and is reportedly haunted – as are all the others, according to the servants. Her neighbours are eccentric, overbearing, and don’t quite know where she fits in the social hierarchy. And one resident in particular, Major-General Bagshot, is overly free with his hands. When a picnic in the garden ends in the Major-General’s death and Pooki is blamed, Mink decides to find the real culprit, and in the process, discovers that she’s quite brilliant as a private investigator.
The Pigeon Pie Mystery is charming, quirky, and a lot of fun, with definite appeal for readers who enjoy the writing of Alan Bradley and Alexander McCall Smith.