When Major Mearns, old soldier and sometime spy, receives a large package in his office in Windsor Castle the last thing he expects to find in it are a pair of legs. A perturbing problem, especially when they turn out to belong to a fellow soldier, Tommy Traddles. With the help of Sergeant Denny and the often unwanted assistance of a young runaway by the name of Charlie, Major Mearns begins his investigations. Not always an easy task in the secretive court of George IV. As other body parts are uncovered and the death toll rises, Mearns and Denny find themselves in conflict with their bête noir, Felix Ferguson, who seems intent on muddying the waters and hindering their activities. Matters are further complicated when Major Mearns comes to accept his growing love for Mindy, one of the Queen’s attendants, a lively lass who might just be in danger herself.
Gwendoline Butler certainly knows her audience – Dread Murder is everything a historical detective novel should be. There are suspects aplenty, spadefuls of action, red herrings, intrigue, romance and a healthy sprinkling of historical detail to keep the enthusiast happy. The outcome is never obvious, and the “twist” in the final sentence put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.