Veronica and Stoker have an expedition put on hold due to Lord Rosemorran’s broken leg, and are left to catalog the extensive collection his family acquired. Lady Cordelia asks Veronica to join her at the Curiosity Club (aka Hippolyta Club) a place of free discourse among ladies without strictures of society. Here, Veronica is introduced to a woman posing as Lady Sundridge who asks a huge favor and offers an even greater reward for Veronica. Veronica knows she is being tested and Stoker advises her against this mystery, but when Veronica says she will try to prove the innocence of a man sentenced to hang within a week Stoker is by her side the entire way. Trips to the Elysian Grotto on the Ramsforth’s estate prove eventful each time and have funny twists to each one. Stoker is also dealing with family matters of his own. Veronica is there to offer support, and true to being a good friend she does not push the matter. While unmasking the true murder, Veronica and Stoker stumble upon blackmail, love affairs, political scandals, and family members who annoy them. The best part of the ending is trying to figure out how Huxley got Betony pregnant, which points to the author’s great gift of making you care about all characters no matter how small their roles are.
Cast of Characters and Book Summary:
Veronica Speedwell = agrees to look into the Miles Ramsforth case, told by his wife and brother-in-law she will not be successful as they think he killed his mistress. Veronica drops the ledger when she and Stoker sneak into the Grotto the first time, does not understand her aunt. Confronts Lady Wellie at the end and lets it be known she does not appreciate being a pawn to the royal family. Admits to Stoker she has killed before and when she is ready to talk about her demons she will talk to him.
Stoker = his father died recently, and his family has been trying to reach him by mail. Agrees to help Veronica investigate, working on taxidermy of a camel. Has trouble lying to old ladies, is able to cajole royalty and aristocrats due to his upbringing and helps Veronica move in those circles. Risks his life for Veronica and promises when he is ready to talk about his demons it will be with her.
Lady Sundridge = Princess Lousie, daughter of Queen Victoria, member of Curiosity Club, asks Veronica to help clear Miles, her friend, offers Veronica a chance to meet her father and Veronica knows it will never happen. Summons Veronica and Stoker several times and conflicts with Veronica several times.
Miles Ramforth = accused of murdering his mistress, Artemsia, going to hang next week, married to Ottilie. Kept a ledger of who visited the grotto and what vices they enjoyed.
Artemisia = real name Maud Eresby, was murdered at a party, artist/painter supported by Sir Frederick, pregnant with Mile Ramfroth’s baby
Lord Rosemorran = friend and benefactor to Veronica and Stoker, tripped over his pet tortoise (Patricia) causing a compound fracture of the thigh, being nursed by his sister and aunt
Sir Hugo Montgomerie = head of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, knows Veronica’s true birth right, friend to Louise
John Cambell, Marques of Lorne = Louise’s husband, heir to the Duke of Argyll
Sir Frederick Havelock = most accomplished artist of his age, has protegees who live on his grounds, has been confined to a bath chair since the death of Artemisia (one of his protegee). Introduced Miles to Artemisia, and other protegees have been encouraged to have affairs with patrons. Cannot paint anymore due to a disease. Veronica saw him out of his bath chair. Miles Ramfroth’s brother-in-law. Used to attend the Grotto with his wife. Claims he only loved his dead wife even when he cheated on her.
Ottilie Ramsforth = Miles’s wife, wore white to the party and did not have blood on her dress so the police ruled her out as a suspect. Thinks her husband is guilty, because he is not willing to say his alibi. Plans to move to Greece after Miles is executed so she will be away from the gossip.
Lady Wellingtonia “Wellie” Beauclerk = Lady C’s great aunt and coming to take care of Lord R. while Lady C sets the children up in the new school year. Storied life, like to play with people and knows secrets of the royal family and of many people. Gives tidbits to information to Stoker and Veronica during the investigation.
Reverend Cecil Boring-Ponsorby = gentleman friend of Lady Wellie, has a claim to one of Betony’s puppies
Emma Talbot = scultpress under Sir Frederick, drew Miles as he could be not as the papers showed him, wants Stoker to pose nude for him and Veronica uses this as an excuse to snoop around Sir Frederick’s place. Claims she is OK if Miles hangs, since the police found him guilty.
Julian Gilchrist = portraitist, lover of Artemsia, attended the grotto with her. Veronica and Stoker both like him for her murder but in different roles. Veronica finds a pair of blood stained shoes in his secret compartment in his room at Sir Frederick’s. Dies before the end of the book.
Cherry = Sir Frederick’s maid, professional mourner at the party, gives Veronica a few tidbits of information
Merryweather Templeton-Vane = Stoker’s youngest brother, clergyman, came to Bishop’s Folly to see Stoker and was rude to Veronica. Stoker threatened him and Veronica put him in his place.
Tiberius Templeton-Vane = now Lord, Stoker’s oldest brother, wife died 2 years into their marriage and he has not remarried, was in the ledger in the Grotto, likes Veronica. Veronica tells Stoker his honesty during dinner was an olive branch, but Stoker is not sure and warns (as a friend) Veronica to stay away from him.
Mr. Pettifer = undertaker that saw to Artemisia, opium user, Veronica and Stoker visit him at an opium den to gather information on what was kept out of the paper about the murder.
Mr. Padgett = undertaker, Pettifer’s partner, butterfly collector and asks Veronica about a specific butterfly she promises to collect for him. Veronica then has trouble killing the butterfly.