Herein Dido is staying with her cousin, Flora, in the village of Richmond. A neighbor, Mrs. Lansdale, has died suddenly, and there is a distressing rumor going about that the old woman’s nephew hastened her end with a hefty dose of laudanum – and this rumor is particularly distressing to Flora, who is (rather inappropriately) fond of said nephew. Naturally, Dido embarks on an investigation into the case, which, as murder investigations often do, ends up unearthing more than one peripheral secret in the neighborhood.
I like Dido. I like her a great deal. As I believe I said in my review of the first book, she is well-drawn as a woman of her time who happens to be intelligent, clear-minded, and on the spot to do some useful detective work – without turning into Sherlock Holmes in crinolines. She is no master detective, nor is she a Miss Marple, calmly deducing the truth of a situation by drawing on all the psychopaths she has known. (And, seriously – how many psychopaths did that woman know? I’ve only known one (that I know of); she has one to fit every occasion.) Instead, she launches her investigations in order to help her family and the innocent accused, and also because she quite frankly enjoys the pursuit. Her methods are suited to her position: she asks questions. Lots of them. Of everyone.
And this comes to the attention of her Mr. Lomax. Well, he’s not quite her Mr. Lomax; there is an unspoken sort of understanding between them, to which some words are applied in this book, but nothing can be cemented between them until he has paid off his son’s very large debts – which will take some time. Still, Dido has waited this long for the right man to come along, and she is willing to wait a while longer. The only problem is that this right man strongly disapproves of her pastime of sleuthing. It isn’t ladylike; moreover, it isn’t safe: if a person has killed once, they may kill again if they find someone nosing about their doings. Will Dido allow her not-quite-betrothed’s opinions to stop her from trying to prove a man’s innocence?
Well, there wouldn’t be a book if she did, would there?
I think my only problem with the story is the believability of this relationship between Dido and Mr. Lomax. He’s lovely, yes. It’s nice that his main objection to her investigations is concern for her reputation and safety, not her reputation or sensibilities as a lady. But he has a profligate son who spends money as if he actually had any, and who doesn’t seem like the type to change his spots. Especially if pater is going to be good enough to pay off all those pesky creditors. I would expect his attitude to be along the lines of: Perfect – a clean slate. Thanks, Dad. There’s a big card game tonight I can make if I leave now. Just because this one lot of debts is on its way to being discharged – an expenditure which Mr. Lomax Sr. can ill afford (and which won’t allow him the extra costs of taking a new wife) – doesn’t mean the behavior will stop. I keep being surprised that Dido is perfectly willing to put these considerations aside in considering the match. She has so much sense.