- I loved Julia Stuart’s The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise.
Summary from GoodReads:
When Indian Princess Alexandrina is left penniless by the sudden death of her father, the Maharaja of Brindor, Queen Victoria grants her a grace-and-favor home in Hampton Court Palace. Though rumored to be haunted, Alexandrina and her lady’s maid, Pooki, have no choice but to take the Queen up on her offer.
Aside from the ghost sightings, Hampton Court doesn’t seem so bad. The princess is soon befriended by three eccentric widows who invite her to a picnic with all the palace’s inhabitants, for which Pooki bakes a pigeon pie. But when General-Major Bagshot dies after eating said pie, and the coroner finds traces of arsenic in his body, Pooki becomes the #1 suspect in a murder investigation.
Princess Alexandrina isn’t about to let her faithful servant hang. She begins an investigation of her own, and discovers that Hampton Court isn’t such a safe place to live after all.
With her trademark wit and charm, Julia Stuart introduces us to an outstanding cast of lovable oddballs, from the palace maze-keeper to the unconventional Lady Beatrice (who likes to dress up as a toucan—don’t ask), as she guides us through the many delightful twists and turns in this fun and quirky murder mystery. Everyone is hiding a secret of the heart, and even Alexandrina may not realize when she’s caught in a maze of love.
The Pigeon Pie Mystery. Look at that name. Now think about it – maybe you will come to the same conclusion I did at first: the mystery must be about who, on earth, would eat pigeon pie?
However, that is not the mystery contained within the pages of this insanely witty, very dry, very British book about the HH Princess Alexandrina (Mink) and her maid from India, “Pooki”. I don’t read a lot of mysteries these days, and when I do I stick to authors that I’ve found through a (very painful) process that I have honed over the last few years. I don’t like sensationalism, but I do like interesting character development – the more quirks the better.
Julia Stuart’s writing reminds me a bit of Alexander McCall Smith’s. But while his writing tends to be about developing the same characters and providing thoughtful insights into life in Botswana, Stuart’s writing veers more toward bringing out the ridiculous in those we see around us. She’s a fantastic mix of the more outgoing of Austen’s awkward situations and McCall Smith’s lovable characters. I don’t know how to describe it better than that.
So, having loved The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise with all its eccentricities and, having been moved to tears more than once (both from laughter and sorrow), I jumped on Stuart’s new novel faster than you can say Victoria and Albert.
For the last two days I have savoured this novel (look at me, spelling with extra vowels now). I’ve giggled and enjoyed every quirk – from ghosts to murder mysteries to monkeys to ill-fitting trousers on amorous doctors. And while I’m a bit disappointed that there wasn’t the same level of bitter-sweetness in The Pigeon Pie Mystery, I hereby deem it a novel worthy to be read – but only by those who appreciate good, dry British humour (and don’t mind picking up an extra vowel or two).
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