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Death at Blenheim Palace: An Edwardian Mystery    by Robin Paige order for
Death at Blenheim Palace
by Robin Paige
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Robin Paige is the pseudonym of Susan Wittig Albert and her husband Bill Albert. The pair have turned out a seamless, beautifully-crafted historical mystery (set in 1903) that is engrossing as much for its characters as for its plot. Although Kate and Charles (Lord and Lady Sheridan) are the protagonists, the other characters are in some ways far more interesting. The authors have woven historical characters into their tale: the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Winston Churchill, Gladys Deacon, and T. E. Lawrence. They bring to life long-dead passions and emotions, and make real the people behind the well-known names.

Kate and Charles are invited to spend a few days at fabulous Blenheim Palace. Neither of the Sheridans is typical of their social class. Charles harbours liberal sympathies. Kate, an American, comes from a modest family background and is also an author of rather sensational stories. Her alter-ego, Beryl Bardwell, is delighted at the prospect of researching the site of a long-ago tragedy; Henry II's beautiful mistress Rosamund was murdered some six centuries before on what was to become Blenheim land. Charles also has another motive for visiting Blenheim: a respected amateur detective, he is quietly investigating what may be a potential target for some very well-organized thieves, who specialize in high-end jewellery and artifacts.

The Sheridans are soon caught up in a tangled web. The death of a maid, if unimportant to those she served, provides a valuable clue for Charles. Beautiful Gladys Deacon disappears under ominous circumstances. Kate is a worthy partner to her husband. In addition to investigating the suspicious events around them, she becomes the confidante and ally of the very unhappy Duchess. Née Consuelo Vanderbilt, she finds herself isolated and trapped in a travesty of a marriage. The ending is thoroughly satisfying. Kate and Charles not only solve the mysteries and thwart a dangerous enemy; Kate also provides assistance to Consuelo.

The authors skillfully keep track of many complicated strands, weaving them all into a smooth and entertaining tale. As a plus, their Afterword tells us what became of the historical figures who played a role in their mystery. (I do love to know what happens after the official end of a tale!) In short, Death at Blenheim Palace is an entertaining mystery, well worth the read.

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