Stolen Remains: A Lady of Ashes Mystery

Kensington. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780758293244. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758293251. M
An overly ambitious plot and two-dimensional characters populate this second entry in a historical series (after Lady of Ashes) featuring Violet Harper, Victorian lady undertaker. The family of deceased diplomat Lord Raybourn want him buried, but Queen Victoria has her own reasons to keep him above ground and calls on Violet to accomplish this task. Violet embalms the body, assuages the family, and is drawn into investigating additional murders, a body snatching, and a faked death. Diplomatic secrets, blackmail, and bigamy intertwine around a murdered housekeeper, a rakish prince, a butterfly enthusiast, and other odd characters. Lord Raybourn's family members exhibit a multitude of personality flaws, while Scotland Yard detectives are comically inept. Not only does the author describe all things Victorian in excessive detail, but she shoehorns in the building of the Suez Canal, the birth of the Salvation Army, and the invention of dynamite. Altogether, it's overkill for recreational reading.
VERDICT This title may have some appeal for Victoriana fans and those who liked the first book, although the resolution leaves some questions unanswered. Including this much detail on Victorian life borders on the pedantic.
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