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Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent

Death at the Abbey

by Christine Trent

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This was a strange one, and I had thought it might be the 2nd in the series (as the Library dates acquisition date), but I was wrong..

Violet is a remarried widow, her first husband left her is undertaker business in London. When she remarried Sam, an American Lawyer, she sold the business & they moved to Colorado.

Violet had returned to England to help take care of her
mother, when Queen Victoria remanded Violet (who had done a splendid job providing the King Consort's funeral) to help conduct a funeral of a Peer.

As Violet worked in conjunction with her former partners for the funerary needs and one of the partner's wives was unhappy being married to an undertaker, Violet bought him out & has formally returned to work in England.

At this point, Violet is still in England w/ Sam, who has just met Mr Alfred Nobel (Nobel Prize) and is attempting to gain backing for a mine, touting it as safer by using Nobel's invention of dynamite... which The Queen is adamantly against.

Violet is summoned by Duke Portland to attend to the lifeless body of his favorite Raven Aristotle (we never find out what killed him) to prepare & bury him.

The Duke is a recluse that does his business from behind a screen and rarely goes out except at night. He is in the process of restoring the mansion, but never has guests. The Duke is also in the process of building tunnels, he travels to town, church, railway, everyplace by tunnels that are large enough for his carriage. There is a ball room underground, a chapel, and soon to be a skating rink for the staff, which Sam is helping to excavate w/ use of his dymanite...

The Duke is generous, when a worker dies, their family is kept on w/ a stipend & a cottage. The Duke also employs boys from an orphanage at full adult wages, which are set aside & given to them when they emigrate to Canada, where he finds the jobs.

While a guest of the enigmatic Portland, Violet stumbles upon three other bodies, two estate workers and a retired Colonel, a war-time friend of the Duke's who had a penchant for glass eyes and digging for buried treasure on the estate: it is up to violet to take care of their remains and find out who murdered them.

There are no end of suspects and there are, of course, Red Herrings... The main clue coming when Violet visits the Duke's sister while on an errand to visit P.M. Gladstone in order to investigate a suspect.

The book held my interest, some of it was just ok, some of it didn't make sense: how do 3 men end up being murdered & no one reports the murders to the Police or Scotland Yard? The one small part where Scotland yard is called in, is the attack on Violet while in London...

There wasn't as much discussion on funerary practices in this book as the last one I read, which is what really makes the books interesting for me and as Violet isn't a coroner, she isn't able to always discern w/ certainty the exact cause of death. ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jul 7, 2018 |
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1869. While on a much-needed respite with her husband Sam in Nottinghamshire, undertaker Violet Harper is summoned to Welbeck Abbey by the Fifth Duke of Portland to prepare a body. His Grace is known as the "mad duke," and Violet has more than an inkling of why when she arrives at the grand estate and discovers that the corpse in question is that of the duke's favorite raven, Aristotle. Many of the duke's servants believe a dead raven is a harbinger of doom, and the peculiar peer hopes to allay their superstitious fears with an elaborate funeral for his feathered friend. But Aristotle's demise is soon followed by the violent murder of one of the young workers on the estate. Wishing to avoid any whisper of scandal, the reclusive duke implores Violet to conduct her own discreet investigation. In her hunt for evidence, Violet wonders if the manner of the raven's death might provide a crucial clue in solving the crime before someone else--including herself--risks an untimely fate.… (more)

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