Many thanks to Random House Canada for sending Julia Stuart’s newest confection, The Pigeon Pie Mystery. A delightful tale that meshes an uncommon whodunit with a befuddled romance, Pigeon Pie is a darling read.
After stealing my heart with The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise, I was very anxious for The Pigeon Pie Mystery. A few pages in to Pigeon Pie, I was once again enchanted by Stuart’s charm and her extraordinary talent for creating truly wonderful characters.
Mink (Princess Alexandrina), a shopaholic with extravagant taste, is forced to move from everything she knows when her father, the Maharaja of Prindur, passes away under a cloud of complete scandal. Left penniless by a royal estate that was in terrible debt, the Princess and her maid Pooki are forced to move to Hampton Court Palace in England, as guests of Queen Victoria.
The Palace is haunted, the other guests busy themselves with everyone else’s business, and Pooki is soon suspected of murder when a certain Major-General Bagshot suddenly dies after eating her pigeon pie. Princess Mink takes it upon herself to solve the case and find the true murderer before her beloved maid (and friend) is arrested and hung for the crime. What follows is anything but a standard crime novel.
I can’t say what I enjoyed more; the characters themselves, or the wildly entertaining dialogue. Stuart’s razor-sharp wit leaps from every page.
“Quite what Lady Montfort Bebb wants with so many whelks is beyond me,” he said. “Have you met her yet? My wife and I have the great misfortune of living next to her. She’s learning to play the pianoforte and slowly murders the same tune every day. A deaf elephant wearing mittens would sound more melodious. She was taken prisoner during the First Afghan War, but unfortunately was released. My guess is that she started practising her scales and her captors threw open the door and insisted that she leave.”
Unfortunately was released? Elephant wearing mittens? This is just one example of the wild musings of Stuart’s characters. To say that the novel made me laugh out loud more than once would be an understatement.
Mink is hopelessly stubborn, and her maid Pooki is terribly superstitious. Together, they amount to an oddly matched but entirely devoted team. They would do anything for the good of the other, and their mutual love and respect is touching. (I also have to note that their arguments are just as wonderful as their unwavering support of one another. Sarcasm is lobbed back and forth like a deranged ping-pong ball.) Overall, their relationship adds great substance to the mystery.
Once again, Julia Stuart has written a novel that is equal parts dry humor and clever plot. The race to find the murderer brings the reader to the door of a long list of fascinating people, and the romance that simmers in the background is beautifully played. Stuart’s affection for every character that she pens will always keep me coming back for more.
4 stars for The Pigeon Pie Mystery, and as always, anxious for the next novel by this charming author.