I have finished the 123rd book for the book challenge. It was The Pigeon Pie Mystery: A Novel by Julia Stuart.
Princess Alexandrina of Prindur, also known as Mink, has just lost her beloved father the Maharaja of Prindur. He died in unfavorable circumstances and left her in debt. She and her maid Pooki are wondering what to do. Pooki was a governess for English children, and traveled back and forth to England with English children until she was left stranded in England and forced to take terrible jobs. Then she was rescued by the Maharaja and taken into serve in his household. Now Mink has been forced to let all the servants go except Pooki.
Then salvation comes in the form of an offer of a grace-and-favor apartment in Hampton Court Palace from Queen Victoria. Pooki can live rent-free at Hampton Court Palace while she remains unmarried. Mink accept the offer and she and Pooki move into the Wilderness Cottage in Hampton Court Palace.
Mink quickly makes friends with three women at Hampton Court–the Countess, Lady Bessington; Lady Beatrice; and Lady Montfort Bebb. These three women form a firm circle of friends around Mink and help her in her adjustment to Hampton Court. Lady Bessington’s maid, Alice Court, helps Pooki in her adjustment. The doctor, Dr. Henderson, is quite taken with Mink and tries to win her affection. General Bagshot gives Mink a tour of Hampton Court Palace and tries to make advances toward both Mink and her maid.
There is to be a picnic at Hampton Court Palace. Everyone will attend. Pooki is making pigeon pie for the picnic. General Bagshot eats one of Pooki’s pigeon pies. So do others. But that night, General Bagshot dies suddenly. At first, it is thought that General Bagshot died of a heart attack. But an autopsy shows he died of arsenic poisoning.
An inquest is held and the findings are brought forth. Now the arsenic poisoner must be found. The police come to Mink’s cottage and look for arsenic since General Bagshot ate a pigeon pie. They find fly paper in Pooki’s hat box, which contains arsenic. They suspect Pooki of poisoning the General.
Mink decides to play detective and discover the real source of the poison. She has read Sherlock Holmes and feels she can be a detective, too. Is it the Countess, who traded apartments with the Bagshots and had a problem with them? Is it Lady Beatrice, who is secretly married, and didn’t want her secret known and whose precious doves had been killed by the General? Is it Lady Montfort Bebb, whose piano playing had annoyed the General who had complained? Is it his wife, who had had a child whom he had done away with? Is it the American who stays with him, who is in love with the General’s wife? Is it the vine keeper who is secretly married to Lady Beatrice? There are so many suspects.
Mink investigates all these suspects. She stays one step ahead of the police as well as taking Pooki places to calm her down. They go to the Royal Aquarium. Pooki loves it there. Mink sees Dr. Henderson on the banks of the Thames riding his bicycle. He becomes flustered and falls in the river.
There is a grand ball at Hampton Court Palace. It is fancy dress ball. Mink is dressed as Juliet. Dr. Henderson is dressed as Romeo. He attempts to dance the Lancers and it is a complete disaster. Pooki is there dressed as a Lobster. She is there with her beau, the water cress seller.
Just as the police are about to arrest Pooki, Mink thinks she has solved the case. She asks the American Cornelius Pilgrim for a sample of Mrs. Bagshot’s wallpaper from the General’s bedroom that she is redecorating. Mink burns it and smells garlic. She now knows the answer to the puzzle. The General was poisoned by the wallpaper in his bedroom. His wife knew this. She wanted him dead because he took their blind child and gave her to someone in the city to raise. He had syphllis and and the child was born blind. He didn’t want a disabled child. Mrs. Bagshot has been looking for the child in the city and has found her and wants to be near her. So he wasn’t technically murdered. Pooki is saved.
Mink and Dr. Henderson get together. Mink is going to buy a bicycle and Dr. Henderson is going to teach her how to ride it. Pooki and the water cress seller will continue their romance.
This was a sweet story. Mink and Pooki are endearing. The other characters are quite charming, too. The General is despicable and no one wishes him alive, but we must find out who killed him. It is a relief to find out that no one killed him. Mink is smart and witty. Pooki is paranoid and sweet. I loved this story.