This is the second in a historical mystery series featuring Violet Harper, a female undertaker in Victorian London. In this installment, Violet has been asked by Queen Victoria to direct the funeral of a peer of the realm, Viscount Raybourn, who had been in Egypt discussing opening ceremonies for the Suez Canal with the Egyptian viceroy. Upon returning home, he is shot in the face in his London home. The queen also asks Violet to make some discreet inquiries about the death and report back to her.
There’s a happy point between a mystery that is too simple and one that is too complicated, and this story didn’t hit that point for me. There were too many plot lines to follow: blackmail, political maneuvering, amorous liaisons, domestic difficulties, and more. In addition, I never really warmed up to Violet. Although she has great compassion for the dead and talks to them as she prepares their bodies for burial, she came off as priggish when she lectures others about respect for the dead. Some readers may enjoy it for the wealth of information about Victorian funeral rites and for the appearance of prominent figures like Gladstone, but I won’t read any more in this series.