Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia, formerly from The Printed Page, where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday currently is on tour, and this month’s host is BookNAround.
Here’s what I added to my shelves:
Life is not easy in the Soviet Union in the mid-20th century, especially for a factory worker who becomes an unwed mother. But Antonina is lucky to get a room in a communal apartment that she and her little girl share with three old women. Glikeria is the daughter of former serfs. Ariadna comes from a wealthy family and speaks French. Yevdokia is illiterate and bitter. All have lost their families, all are deeply traditional, and all become “grannies” to little Suzanna. Only they secretly name her Sofia. And just as secretly they impart to her the history of her country as they experienced it: the Revolution, the early days of the Soviet Union, the blockade and starvation of World War II. The little girl responds by drawing beautiful pictures, but she is mute. If the authorities find out she will be taken from her home and sent to an institution. When Antonina falls desperately ill, the grannies are faced with the reality of losing the little girl they love — unless a stepfather can be found before it is too late. And for that, they need a miracle. (publisher’s summary)
Following the scandalous death of her father, the exuberant Maharaja of Prindur, Princess Alexandrina, nicknamed Mink and accustomed to a lavish life of wild spending, discovers she is utterly penniless. To make matters worse, the Government is demanding she surrender her beloved home (where she lives with her Indian maid, Pooki) to repay her father’s debts. Eventually, Queen Victoria herself saves Mink from certain ruin, granting her a grace-and-favour home in Hampton Court Palace as a mark of her friendship with the late Maharaja. Though the palace is rumored to be haunted, the strong-willed Princess and superstitious Pooki have no choice but to steel themselves and accept the Queen’s offer.
Aside from the ghost sightings, Hampton Court Palace doesn’t seem so bad at first. Mink is soon befriended by three eccentric widows who invite her to a picnic held in the gardens, for which Pooki bakes a pigeon pie. But when the palace’s most reviled resident, Major-General Bagshot, suddenly dies after eating said pie, Pooki becomes the number one suspect in a murder investigation.
The Princess isn’t about to let her faithful servant hang. As the clock is ticking, she begins an investigation of her own and discovers Hampton Court isn’t such a peaceful place after all. Everyone seems to have a motive for doing away with the Major-General. But who did it?
Was it William Sheepshanks, the Keeper of the Maze, about whom Bagshot complained for letting people in after hours to earn him a few extra pennies? Was it Lady Montford Bebb, who blames the dead man for making her the butt of a humiliating practical joke?
Or could it be the Major-General’s houseguest, the suspicious American palaeontologist, who is supposedly there to study the new ghost sightings?
Once again, Julia Stuart has created an outstanding cast of kooky characters and lovable oddballs, from the palace’s Keeper of the Great Vine to the organ-grinder paid by the public to keep quiet. With her trademark wit and charm, Stuart guides readers through the many delightful twists and turns of this absolutely entertaining whodunit. Everyone is hiding a secret of the heart, and even Mink may not realize that she’s caught in a maze of love.
What books did you add to your shelves recently?
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© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.