MURDER IN THE PLEASURE GARDENS
Rosemary Stevens

 


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Berkley Paperback, June 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Cozy Regency Mystery

Beau Brummell finds life a touch boring without a crime to solve. His new gentlemenís club, Watierís, soon provides him with an urgent new interest. Brummellís young protťgť Lieutenant Nevill, while gambling at Watierís, accuses the highly respected government official Theobald Jacombe of cheating at cards, then challenges him to a duel. The Beau is incensed. Not only has Nevill just promised the Beau he wouldnít gamble anymore, he has also beaten the Beau to challenging Jacombe, because Jacombe insulted Nevillís fiancee Molly and the Beauís good friend Miss Lavender in the same breath.

The night before the duel, Jacombe is murdered, and Nevill is found with the gun in his hand. Miss Lavenderís father, a Bow Street Runner, arrests Nevill on the spot. Nevillís grandfather disowns him, while insulting Molly and Miss Lavender yet again. The Beau knows Nevill would never kill a man so dishonorably. Now madder than hornets, he must keep his cool as he tracks down the secret life of Theobald Jacombe, the seedy past of Nevillís grandfather, and the reason for the mysterious change in the beautiful Miss Lavender.

The real reason this series is held in such love by readers is the Beauís private life. Beau Brummell fights off challengers for his position as societyís Arbiter of Style, grieves over the chill in his formerly warm relationship with Frederica, the Duchess of York, and attends the summonses of the Prince of Wales. These things are historical. Fictionally, he lends behind-the-scenes support to Haven of Hope, a refuge for women run by the tempting Miss Lavender. He plays unwilling host to the mother of his twin footmen Ė and her pig. He placates his cook, quashes the pretensions of his valet, and obeys the commands of his Siamese cat. These private inventions of author Rosemary Stevens are the things that will make MURDER IN THE PLEASURE GARDENS most attractive to readers.

Rosemary Stevensí first mystery, DEATH ON A SILVER TRAY, won the Agatha for Best First Mystery. SILVER TRAY and its sequel THE TAINTED SNUFFBOX kept me laughing out loud. It is my impression from reading THE BLOODIED CRAVAT and MURDER IN THE PLEASURE GARDENS, the third and fourth of the series, that Stevensí feel for her main character has lost its rumbustious sparkle. I didnít laugh out loud once while reading PLEASURE GARDENS. However, Stevens set a mighty high benchmark for herself with her first two books. MURDER IN THE PLEASURE GARDENS is still a heartwarming cozy to escape into, and the Beau is a fine friend to bear one company in oneís leisure.

July 2004 Review

 

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