Lord Charles Sheridan and his clever American wife, Kate, have been summoned by the king to clear the name of a prince who's been living secretly at Glamis under an assumed name, while keeping his true identity secret.
Paige's ninth Victorian mystery (after 2002's Death at Dartmoor) enmeshes married sleuths Lord Charles and Kate Sheridan yet again in royal intrigue and scandal, but with less success than usual. The Sheridans' holiday is interrupted by a summons from Edward VII to investigate strange occurrences at legendary Glamis Castle. The old story of the Monster of Glamis a half-man, half-monster rumored to be a deformed scion of a noble family gains new life when the castle's labyrinthine quarters are used to conceal the presence of Lord Osborne, who lives in isolation, tended to by a small staff of servants. Osborne's disappearance, which coincides with the brutal slaughter of a housemaid, proves worthy of the king's attention when the Sheridans learn that the victim's throat was slit in a manner consistent with the crimes of Jack the Ripper and that Osborne is actually the king's eldest son, Edward, duke of Clarence, himself a one-time Ripper suspect, whose death was announced by Buckingham Palace a decade earlier. Although the Sheridans "solved" the Ripper murders in the earlier Death at Whitechapel, they can't eliminate the duke from suspicion. Their inquiry takes place amid increasing British tensions with imperial Germany, which adds a potential espionage angle to the murder. While the book is a quick read, there's little suspense or deduction, and the pleasant if underdeveloped main characters don't do enough to hold the reader's attention. FYI:Paige is the pseudonym of the husband-wife team of William and Susan Albert Wittig, the latter author ofIndigo Dying (Forecasts, Jan. 13) and other titles in her China Bayles detective series.