Late 18th Century
Isle of Wight
This is the third Drusilla Davanish story in which our heroine plays host to two of William Pitt's spy masters at her inherited stately home on the Isle of Wight. A number of spies in France have been compromised by the actions of an unknown double agent. And one of the spies in danger, Radleigh Reevers, is the man that Drusilla loves/doesn't love. It's complicated…
A messenger is sent to France to warn Reevers, but he is murdered, supposedly by smugglers, before he even leaves the island. Needless to say, Drusilla refuses to believe that he wasn't murdered by this new traitor, whoever he happens to be. But, following on from a previous volume, there is also a plot to kidnap Pitt and take him to France where he will be put on trial and executed.
I have to say that there was a lot about this book that I didn't like. It was a little too short – just two hundred pages – and the title is a little misleading: yes, one of the characters was incarcerated but they were only there for a chapter or two and never visited by any of the other characters. There was also a number of turns of phrase that were repeated too many times, too many aunts/uncles/cousins/godmothers, especially those who took no significant part in the story and a few too many wild assumptions with no basis of proof. I admit that I may have suffered from not having read any of the previous stories, but it is pretty much a stand-alone as details are filled in at the appropriate times.
And yet ….
I have to say that I enjoyed this read despite my misgivings above. The atmosphere of the Isle of Wight is captured very well, the relationship between Drusilla and Radleigh quite captivating and there are some very good cameos, most notably from Drusilla's faithful groom, John Mudd. The plot twists and turns as a good mystery should and suspects are falling over themselves to get 'into the frame'. In actual fact, in my view, it wouldn't make a bad film or mini-series.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Richard Tearle