The Bloodied Cravat
This work is the third in Stevens’ mystery series, which features famous Regency dandy Beau Brummell. Frederica, the Duchess of York, has invited Brummell to her birthday celebration at her estate, Oatlands. Brummell is unable to attend dinner because his valet, Robinson, has been unexpectedly delayed. Brummell’s chagrin quickly turns into panic when Robinson arrives only to announce that highwaymen have taken some of Brummell’s baggage. The clothes can be replaced, but an indiscreet letter, sent by the Duchess to Brummell, is also missing. This piece of news threatens his close friendship with the woman he worships. When a guest at the party is murdered, and Frederica is implicated, Brummell must once again play detective.
While at times the mystery plot tends to drag, the reader who enjoys a tale with rich historical details will find much to enjoy. Probably the most interesting characterization is that of the Duchess, whose inordinate love of animals turned Oatlands into a menagerie. Through the Beau’s first-person narration, one also obtains glimpses into the early workings of the police in London, the life of a wealthy bachelor, and the varied amusements of the time. While it lacks some of the rich atmosphere of Georgette Heyer’s Regency world, Stevens’ cozy mysteries offer a fascinating glimpse into the world and personality of one of the most famous-for-being-famous personalities of that period.