Just in time for Christmas, for the fans of the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery series, Anne Perry has constructed a delightful Victorian mystery featuring one of its more interesting characters, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould.
Lady Vespasia is entertaining her highborn friends at Applecross for a holiday weekend of games, good food and romance, when one of her guests commits suicide --- the victim of the waspish tongue of another. The group is stunned and outraged and demands some sort of revenge. At the urging of her good friend, Omegus Jones, Vespasia suggests to the somewhat less than recalcitrant harpy that perhaps she should atone for her foul deed with an unusual act of expiation. In front of the gathered group, she suggests that she should embark on the long and possibly dangerous journey to northern Scotland to inform the victim's mother of her daughter's sad demise. Not only that, but she should bring the grieving mother back to attend.
In order to make certain this task of medieval origins is completed, Vespasia offers to accompany her friend on the journey. Vespasia, her friend, the victim and her mother are revealed to have secrets in their pasts that come to light as the journey progresses. Perhaps the suicide is something more than meets the eye.
Perry spins a tale of intrigue lavishly adorned with Victoriana and moral conundrums. One almost wishes that expiation were a way of meting out deserved punishment in our times.
--- Reviewed by Roz Shea