Simon & Schuster, Jan 2004, 25.00, 352 pp.
On January 1, 1775, master cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale sends his apprentice Nathaniel Hopson to complete the installation of a library in the home of acrimonious Lord Montfort. As is the lot of the working class including wannabe artisans, Lord Montfort forces Nathaniel to serve as a footman at the dinner in which the lofty aristocrat shows off his lavish new Chippendale bookshelves. However, someone fires a shot and soon afterward once the chaos died down, Nathaniel discovers the corpse of Montfort.
Though it appears that the man committed suicide perhaps over gambling debts he entailed that has ruined his family, Nathaniel believes otherwise. The weapon seems in the wrong place for killing oneself and bloody footprints lead to a window. Unable to resist, Nathaniel begins investigating at the crime scene seeking other anomalies and clues to who killed the odious lord. When he finds two more corpses on the estate, Nathaniel widens his inquiries with the encouragement of another aristocrat.
Though much of the cast seems more like a blueprint than a blueblood, fans of Georgian mysteries will enjoy this delightful tale due to the antics of the lead protagonist. Using his mechanical skills and his artisan eye for balance, Nathaniel is the one complete player who keeps the tale moving forward and focused. The descriptions of life in the late eighteenth century England is as vivid as they come perhaps because of Janet Gleeson's knowledge of the era (see the author's nonfiction THE ARCANUM) that she cleverly imbues throughout the novel. The audience will appreciate THE GRENADILLO BOX and hopefully Ms. Gleeson will write additional Georgian investigative tales.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner