Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax’s plan to reunite her friend Prue with her estranged—and allegedly wealthy—mother, Henrietta, is met with a grim surprise. Not only is the marquise’s Paris mansion a mouse-infested ruin, but Henrietta has inexplicably vanished, leaving behind an evasive husband, two sinister stepsisters, and a bullet-riddled corpse in the pumpkin patch decked out in a ball gown and one glass slipper—a corpse that also happens to be a dead ringer for Prue.
Strangely, no one at 15 rue Garenne seems concerned about who plugged this luckless Cinderella or why, so the investigation is left to Ophelia and Prue. It takes them through the labyrinthine maze of the Paris Opera, down the trail of a legendary fairy tale relic, into the confidence of a wily prince charmless, and makes them vulnerable to the secrets of a mysterious couturière with designs of her own on Prue’s ever-twisting family history.
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The murdered girl, grainy in black-and-gray newsprint, stared up at him. Her eyes were mournful and blank.
Gabriel placed the chipped Blue Willow teacup beside the picture. His hand shook, and tea sloshed onto the newspaper. Ink bled.
Gabriel Augustus Penrose, although a bespectacled professor, hadn’t—not yet, at least—developed round shoulders or a nearsighted scowl. Although, such shoulders and such a scowl would have suited the oaken desk, swaybacked sofa, towers of books, and swirling dust motes in his study at St. Remigius’s College, Oxford. And at four-and-thirty years of age, Gabriel was certainly not given to fits of trembling.
He tore his eyes from the girl’s. Was it today’s newspaper? He glanced at the upper margin—yes. Perhaps there was still time.
Time for . . . what?
He didn’t customarily peruse the papers during his four o’clock cup of tea, but a student had come to see him and he’d happened to leave The Times behind. The morgue drawing was on the fourth page, tucked between a report about a Piccadilly thief and an advertisement for stereoscopic slides. A familiar, lovely, and—according to the report—dead face.
SENSATIONAL MURDER IN PARIS: In the Marais district, a young woman was found dead as the result of two gunshot wounds in the garden of the mansion of the Marquis de la Roque-Fabliau, 15 Rue Garenne. She is thought to be the daughter of American actress Henrietta Bright, who wed the marquis in January. The family solicitor said that it is not known how the tragic affair arose, and that the family was unaware of the daughter’s presence in Paris. The commissaire de police of that quarter has undertaken an assiduous search for her murderer.
Gabriel removed his spectacles, leaned forward on his knees, and laid his forehead in his palm. The murdered girl, Miss Prudence Bright, was a mere acquaintance. Perhaps the same might be said of Miss Ophelia Flax, the young American actress who had been traveling with Miss Bright when he’d encountered them in the Black Forest several weeks ago.
Mere acquaintance. The term could not account for the ripping sensation in his lungs.
Gabriel replaced his spectacles, stood, and strode to the jumbled bookcase behind his desk. He drew an antique volume from the shelf: Histoires ou contes du temps passé—Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times—by Charles Perrault. He flipped through the pages, making certain a loose sheet of paper was still wedged inside.
He stuffed the volume in his leather satchel, along with his memorandum book, yanked on his tweed jacket, clamped on his hat, and made for the door.
Two Days Earlier
The mansion’s door-knocker was shaped like a snarling mouse’s head. Its bared teeth glinted in the gloom and raindrops dribbled off its nose. It ought to have been enough of a warning. But Miss Ophelia Flax was in no position to skedaddle. Yes, her nerves twanged like an out of tune banjo. But she’d come too far, she had too little money, and rainwater was making inroads into her left boot. She would stick to her guns.
“Ready?” she asked Prue, the nineteen-year-old girl dripping next to her like an unwrung mop.
“Can’t believe Ma would take up residence in a pit like this,” Prue said. Her tone was all bluster, but her china-doll’s face was taut beneath her bonnet, and her yellow curls drooped. “You sure you got the address right?”
“Certain.” The inked address had long since run, and the paper was as soggy as bread pudding by now. However, Ophelia had committed the address—15 Rue Garenne—to memory, and she’d studied the Baedeker’s Paris map in the railway car all the way from Germany, where she and Prue had lately been employed as maids in the household of an American millionaire. “It’s hardly a pit, either,” Ophelia said. “More like a palace. It’s past its prime, that’s all.” The mansion’s stones, true, were streaked with soot, and the neighborhood was shabby. But Henrietta’s mansion would dwarf every building in Littleton, New Hampshire, where Ophelia had been born and raised. It was grander than most buildings in New York City, too.
“I reckon Ma, of all people, wouldn’t marry a poor feller.”
“But what if she ain’t here? What if she went back to New York?”
“She’ll be here. And she’ll be ever so pleased to see you. It’s been how long? Near a twelvemonth since she . . .” Ophelia’s voice trailed off. Keeping up the chipper song and dance was a chore.
“This is cork-brained,” Prue said.
“We’ve come all this way, and we’re not turning back now.” Ophelia didn’t mention that she had just enough maid’s wages saved up for one—and only one—railway ticket to Cherbourg and one passage back to New York.
Prue’s mother, Henrietta Bright, had been the star actress of Howard DeLuxe’s Varieties back in Manhattan, up until she’d figured out that walking down the aisle with a French marquis was a sight easier than treading the boards. She had abandoned Prue, since ambitious brides have scant use for blossoming daughters.
But Prue and Ophelia had recently discovered Henrietta’s whereabouts, so Ophelia fully intended to put her Continental misadventures behind her, just as soon as she installed Prue in the arms of her long-lost mother.
Before Ophelia could lose her nerve, she hefted the mouse-head door-knocker and let it crash.
Prue eyed Ophelia’s disguise. “Think she’ll buy that getup?”
“Once we’re safe inside, I’ll take it off.”
The door squeaked open.
A grizzle-headed gent loomed. His spine was shaped like a question mark and flesh-colored bumps studded his eyelids. A steward, judging by his drab togs and stately wattle.
“Good evening,” Ophelia said in her best matron’s warble. “I wish to speak to Madame la Marquise de la Roque-Fabliau.” What a mouthful. Like sucking on marbles.
“Regrettably, that will not be possible,” the steward said.
He spoke English. Lucky.
The steward’s gaze drifted southward.
Ophelia was five-and-twenty years of age, tall, and beanstalk straight as far as figures went. However, at present she appeared to be a pillowy-hipped, deep-bosomed dame in a black bombazine gown and woolen cloak. A steel-gray wig and black taffeta bonnet concealed her light brown hair, and cosmetics crinkled her oval face. All for the sake of practicality. Flibbertigibbets like Prue required chaperones when traveling, so Ophelia had dug into her theatrical case and transformed herself into the sort of daunting chaperone that made even the most shameless lotharios turn tail and pike off.
“Now see here!” Ophelia said. “We shan’t be turned out into the night like beggars. My charge and I have traveled hundreds of miles in order to visit the marquise, and we mean to see her. This young lady is her daughter.”
The steward took in Prue’s muddy skirts, her cheap cloak and crunched straw bonnet, the two large carpetbags slumped at their feet. He didn’t budge.
“Baldewyn,” a woman’s voice called behind him. “Baldewyn, qui est là?” There was a tick-tick of heels, and a dark young lady appeared. She was perhaps twenty years of age, with a pointed snout of a face like a mongoose and beady little animal eyes to match.
“Pardonnez-moi, Mademoiselle Eglantine,” Baldewyn said, “this young lady—an American, clearly—claims to be a kinswoman of the marquise.”
“Kinswoman?” Eglantine said. “How do you mean, kinswoman? Of my belle-mère? Oh. Well. She is . . . absent.”
Ophelia had picked up enough French from a fortune-teller during her stint in P. Q. Putnam’s Traveling Circus a few years back to know what belle-mère meant: stepmother.
“No matter,” Ophelia said. “Mademoiselle, may I present to you your stepsister, Miss Prudence Deliverance Bright?”
“I assure you,” Eglantine said, “I have but one sister, and she is inside. I do not know who you are, or what sort of little amusement you are playing at, but I have guests to attend to. Now, s’il vous plaît, go away!” She spun around and disappeared, the tick-tick of her heels receding.
Baldewyn’s dour mouth twitched upwards. Then he slammed the door in their noses.
“Well, I never!” Ophelia huffed. “They didn’t even ask for proof!”
“I told you Ma don’t want me.”
“For the thousandth time, humbug.” Ophelia hoisted her carpetbag and trotted down the steps, into the rain. “She doesn’t even know you’re on the European continent, let alone on her doorstep. That Miss Eglantine—”
“Fancies she’s the Queen of Sheba!” Prue came down the steps behind her, hauling her own bag.
“—said your mother is absent. So all we must do is wait. The question is, where?” They stood on the sidewalk and looked up and down the street lined with monumental old buildings and shivering black trees. A carriage splashed by, its driver bent into the slanting rain. “We can’t stay out of doors. May as well be standing under Niagara Falls. I’m afraid my greasepaint’s starting to run, and this padding is like a big sponge.” Ophelia shoved her soaked pillow-bosom into line. “Come on. Surely we’ll find someplace to huddle for an hour or so. Your sister—”
“Don’t call her that!”
“Very well, Miss Eglantine said they’ve got guests. So I figure your mother will be home soon.”
The mansion’s foundation stones went right to the pavement. No front garden. But farther along they found a carriageway arch. Its huge iron gates stood ajar.
“Now see?” Ophelia said. “Nice and dry under there.”
“Not . . . terribly.”
More hoof-clopping. Was it—Ophelia squinted—was it the same carriage that had passed by only a minute ago? Yes. It was. The same bent driver, the same horses. And—
Her heart went lickety-split.
—and a pale smudge of a face peering out the window. Right at her.
Then it had gone.
* * *
On the other side of the carriageway arch lay a big, dark courtyard. Wings of Henrietta’s mansion bordered it on two sides. The third side was an ivy-covered carriage house and stables, where an upstairs window glowed with light. The fourth side was a high stone wall. The garden seemed neglected. Shrubs were shaggy, weeds tangled the flower beds, and the air stank of decay.
“Look,” Prue said, pointing. “A party.”
Light shone from tall windows. Figures moved about inside and piano music tinkled.
“Let’s have a look.” Ophelia abandoned her carpetbag under the arch and set off down a path. Wet twigs and leaves dragged at her skirts.
“You mean spy on them?”
“Miss Eglantine didn’t seem the most honest little fish.”
“And that Baldy-win feller was a troll.”
“So maybe your ma is really in there, after all.”
Up close to the high windows, it was like peeping into a jewel box: cream paneled walls with gold-leaf flowers and swags, and enough mirrors and crystal chandeliers to make your eyes sting. A handful of richly dressed ladies and gentlemen loitered about. A plump woman in a gray bun—a servant—stood against a wall. A frail young lady in owlish spectacles crashed away at the piano.
“There’s Eggy,” Prue said. “Maybe that’s the sister she mentioned.” A third young lady in a lavish green tent of a gown sat next to Eglantine.
“Same dark hair,” Ophelia said.
“Same mean little eyes.”
“A good deal taller, however, and somewhat . . . wider.”
“Spit it out. She looks like a prizefighter in a wig.”
“Prue! That might be your own sister you’re going on about.”
“Stepsister. Look—they’re having words, I reckon. Eggy don’t seem too pleased.”
The young ladies’ heads were bent close together, and they appeared to be bickering. The larger lady in green had her eyes stuck on something across the room.
Ah. A gentleman. Fair-haired, flushed, and strapping, crammed into a white evening jacket with medals and ribbons, and epaulets on the shoulders. He conversed with a burly fellow in black evening clothes who had a lion’s mane of dark gold hair flowing to his shoulders.
“Ladies quarreling about a fellow,” Ophelia said. “How very tiresome.”
“Some fellers are worth talking of.”
“If you’re hinting that I care to discuss any gentleman, least of all Professor Penrose, then—well, I do not, I sincerely do not feel a whit of sentiment for that man.”
“Oh, sure,” Prue said.
Ophelia longed for things, certainly. But not for him. She longed for a home. She longed, with that gritted-molars sort of longing, to be snug in a third-class berth in the guts of a steamship barging towards America. She’d throw over acting, head up north to New Hampshire or Vermont, get work on a farmstead. Merciful heavens! She knew how to scour pots, tend goats, hoe beans, darn socks, weave rush chair seats, and cure a rash with apple cider vinegar. So why was she gallivanting across Europe, penniless, half starved, and shivering, in this preposterous disguise?
“Duck!” Prue whispered.
There was a clatter above, voices coming closer; someone pushed a window open.
Ophelia and Prue stumbled off to the side until they were safely in shadow once more. They’d come to the second wing of the mansion. All of the windows were black except for two on the main floor.
“Let’s look,” Ophelia whispered. “Could be your ma.”
They picked their way towards the windows, into what seemed to be a marshy vegetable patch.
Ophelia stepped around some sort of half-rotten squash, and wedged the toe of her boot between two building stones. She gripped the sill to pull herself up, and her waterlogged rump padding threatened to pull her backwards. She squinted through the glass. “Most peculiar,” she whispered. “Looks like some sort of workshop. Tables heaped with knickknacks.”
“A tinker’s shop?” Prue clambered up. “Oh. Look at all them gears and cogs and things.”
“Why would there be a tinker’s shop in this grand house? Your ma married a nobleman. Yet it’s on the main floor of the house, not down where the servants’ workplaces must be.” A fire burned in a carved fireplace and piles of metal things glimmered.
“Crackers,” Prue whispered. “Someone’s in there.”
Sure enough, a round, bald man hunched over a table. One of his hands held a cube-shaped box. The other twisted a screwdriver. Ophelia couldn’t see his face because he wore brass jeweler’s goggles.
“What in tarnation is he doing?” Prue spoke too emphatically, and her bonnet brim hit the windowpane.
The man glanced up. The lenses of his goggles shone.
Holy Moses. He looked like something that had crawled out of a nightmare.
The man stood so abruptly that his chair collapsed behind him. He lurched towards them.
Ophelia hopped down into the vegetable patch.
Prue recoiled. For a few seconds she seemed suspended, twirling her arms in the air like a graceless hummingbird. Then she pitched backwards and thumped into the garden a few steps from Ophelia.
“Hurry!” Ophelia whispered. “Get up! He’s opening the window!”
Prue didn’t get up. She screamed. The kind of long, shrill scream you’d use when, say, falling off a cliff.
The man flung open the window. He yelled down at them in French.
“Get me off of it!” Prue yelled. “Oh golly, get me off of it!”
Ophelia crouched, hooked her hands under Prue’s arms, and dragged her to her feet. They both stared, speechless, down into the dark vegetation. Raindrops smacked Ophelia’s cheeks. Prue panted and whimpered at the same time
Then—the man must’ve turned on a lamp—light flared.
A gorgeous gown of ivory tulle and silk sprawled at Ophelia’s and Prue’s feet, embroidered with gold and silver thread.
A gown. That was all. That had to be all.
But there was a foot—mercy, a foot—protruding from the hem of the gown. Bare, white, slick with rainwater. Toes bruised and blood-raw, the big toenail purple.
Ophelia’s tongue went sour.
Hair. Long, wet, curled hair, tangled with a leaf and clotted with blood. A face. Eyes stretched open. Dead as a doornail.
Ophelia stopped breathing.
The thing was, the dead girl was the spitting image of . . . Prue.
The goggled man’s yelling stopped, and he vanished.
He’d be summoning the law. Or maybe unleashing a pack of drooling hounds.
Ophelia managed to stagger away with Prue from that horrible . . . thing. Prue’s whimpers inched into a hysterical register.
Ophelia lowered them both to a seat on the edge of a fountain. The fountain’s black water mirrored the lights of the party still going full-steam ahead inside. Those fancy folk hadn’t heard Prue’s screams through the piano music.
“Calm yourself. It will be all right.” Ophelia stroked Prue’s hunched back. These were hypocritical words, since Ophelia was feeling about as calm as a nor’easter herself. But what else could you say to a girl who’d just laid eyes on her dead double? “We’ll leave this place, Prue, just as soon as you’re able to walk. How would that be?”
Prue panted through her teeth.
“And that girl,” Ophelia said, “well, there must be some horrible mistake, or maybe—”
“How could it be a mistake? Them holes in her. The blood. The—”
“I don’t know. But we’ll leave, even if it means sleeping on a park bench, but first you must steady your breath, and—”
“Sister? Have you a sister?” In all the years Ophelia had known Prue, she’d never heard of a sister.
“Had. I had a sister. Now she’s gone, and I never had a—had a—had a—” Prue crumpled into fresh sobs.
Her sobs were so noisy that Ophelia didn’t hear the scrunching gravel behind them until it was too late.
“You two,” someone said just behind them. “Mais oui. I might have guessed.”
Ophelia twisted around.
Baldewyn the steward minced around the fountain. Even in the dim light, it was easy to see his pistol, aimed straight at Ophelia’s noggin.
“You hold that gun just as prettily as a feather duster,” Ophelia said, “but doesn’t the hammer need to be cocked?”
“Forgive me,” Baldewyn said. “I had been inclined to think I was dealing with a lady. Not”—he cocked the hammer— “a sharpshooter. I had almost forgotten that you two are not only derelicts, but Americans. Does everyone in that wilderness of yours fancy themselves a—how do you say?—cowboy? S’il vous plaît, rise and walk.”
“Not on your nelly.”
“What a quaint expression. Does it mean no? Sadly, no is not, at this juncture, a possibility. The marquis has informed me that you have been trespassing, and that there appears to be a corpse on the premises. On occasions such as these, it is customary to take invading strangers into custody.”
“You aren’t the police,” Ophelia said.
“Oh, the Gendarmerie Royale has been summoned and the commissaire will be notified. You cannot escape. Now, I really must insist”—Baldewyn leaned around, pressed the barrel of the pistol between Ophelia’s shoulder blades, and gave it a corkscrew—“that you march.”
He prodded Ophelia with the gun across the garden to the house, Prue clinging to Ophelia’s arm all the way. They reached a short flight of steps that led down to a door. Windows on either side of the door guttered with dull orange light.
“The cellar?” Prue said. “You ain’t going to rabbit hutch us in the cellar are you, mister?”
Baldewyn’s answer was a shove that sent Ophelia and Prue slipping and stumbling down the mossy steps. Baldewyn followed. He kicked open the door, and bundled Ophelia and Prue across the threshold.
The door slammed and a latch clacked.
They were locked in.
* * *
Prue had reckoned she’d gotten ahold of herself. A slippery hold, leastways. But something about the sound of that latch hitting home made her go all fluff-headed again. Another scream bloomed up from her lungs, but it couldn’t come out. Her throat was raw now, wounded.
Wounded. Her sister. Those creeping dark stains. Her poor, small, battered foot.
“Look,” Ophelia said in the Sunday School Teacher voice she always used on Prue. “Look. It’s only a kitchen, see?”
Right. Only a kitchen. A mighty dirty kitchen.
“And,” Ophelia added, “it’s spacious. No need to feel cooped up.”
Half of the kitchen glowed from orange cinders in a fireplace. The other half wavered in shadow. Iron kettles on chains bubbling up wafts of savor and herbs. Plank table cluttered with crockery. Copper pots dangling from thick ceiling beams.
And . . . little motions flickering along the walls. Prue rubbed her eyes. The motions didn’t stop. Black, streaming, skittery—
“Mice!” she yelled.
In three bounds, Prue was on top of the table. Crockery crashed. A chair toppled sideways.
Mice. Uck. Prue’s skin itched all over. She disliked most critters with feet smaller than nickels, and she hated mice. Blame it on her girlhood, on the lean times spent in Manhattan rookeries.
“My sainted aunt.” Ophelia righted the chair.
“Sorry.” Prue crouched on the tabletop, arms hugged around her damp, muddy knees.
Ophelia, silent, stooped to collect shards of crockery.
Probably marveling at how she’d been dragged into yet another fix by Prue. Prue was fond of Ophelia, but she knew—or, at least, she powerfully suspected—that Ophelia looked upon her as a dray horse looks upon a harness and cart. A deadweight. A chafing in the sides.
Ophelia piled the crockery shards on the table. “Tell me about your sister,” she said. “Did you never know her, then?”
“Only heard stories. Well, just one story. Ma only kept her long enough for the one story, see.”
“What was her name?”
“Don’t know. She is—was—a year or two older than me. Her pa took her off when she was only a new baby. I never got to meet her, Ophelia, I—”
“What else did your ma say?”
“That’s all. That her pa was some hoity-toity French feller, and he hired a wet nurse and took the baby off to give her a better life. Didn’t want his child raised by an actress. Do you think . . . maybe Ma married him, all these years later? Maybe this here’s his house? But then, why is my sister lying dead out there in the weeds with those fine folks inside laughing and listening to piano songs and—”
“Shush, now. Don’t work yourself up.”
Prue patted her bodice. From beneath damp layers of wool and cotton came the comforting crackle of paper.
The letter. Her treasured secret. Proof that somebody in this wide world wanted her. Maybe.
* * *
Ophelia and Prue hunkered on stools at the kitchen hearth. They kept their wet cloaks and bonnets on. Their soaked boots steamed. Mice nibbled food scraps under the table.
From the rooms above came muffled voices, foot thuds, door slams. Outside in the garden, men’s voices rose and fell behind the spatter of rain on the windows. Lights shone and turned away like unsteady lighthouses.
More than an hour passed.
“Oh!” Prue’s head bobbed up. “Someone’s coming down the stairs.”
Ophelia straightened her wig and stood. “Let me do the talking.”
A person ought never show up to a murder wearing a disguise. Ophelia had realized that nugget of wisdom too late. The problem was that if one whipped off a wig and padded hips, say, shortly after a dead body was discovered, well, suspicions were sure to kindle.
Which meant there was no choice but to blunder forward in this absurd disguise.
Three men piled into the kitchen: the bald, egg-shaped fellow they’d seen tinkering with the screwdriver, and two young men in brass-buttoned blue uniforms. Police.
“Precisely what is the meaning of this?” Ophelia asked in her best Outraged Chaperone voice. “Locking us up like common criminals? I’ll have you know this is the marquise’s daughter, Miss Prudence Bright. Where is the marquise—where is Henrietta?”
The men gawked at Prue.
“I presume that your extremely rude staring,” Ophelia said, “is due to the simple fact that the dead girl in the garden is—was—also Henrietta’s daughter, and thus Miss Bright’s sister. The resemblance is indeed uncanny, but that is not an excuse to gape at this poor girl as though she were a circus sideshow.”
“Sister?” the egg-shaped man said. “Oh. Sisters. I see. I beg your pardon, madame. I have forgotten my manners. I am Renouart Malbert, the Marquis de la Roque-Fabliau. The master of this house.”
Malbert wore an elegant suit of evening clothes that was fifteen years out of mode and frayed about the cuffs and collar. He was so short he had to tip his custard-soft chins up to look into Ophelia’s face. His jeweler’s goggles had been replaced with round, gold spectacles. His eyes blinked like a clever piglet’s.
“Et oui, oh yes, mon Dieu,” Malbert said, “Mademoiselle Bright does indeed resemble the girl—her sister, you say—in the garden, and also my dear, darling, precious Henrietta.”
Henrietta was lots of things, but dear, darling, and precious were not at the top of the list.
“The girl in the garden, you say?” Ophelia frowned. “Then you do not know her name?”
“Why, no,” Malbert said. “She is a stranger to me.”
“Yet now that I see this daughter—Prudence, you say?—of my darling wife, well, now I begin to discern a family resemblance. Oh dear me.” Malbert dabbed his clammy-looking pate with a hankie. “A most perplexing matter, troubling, macabre, even.”
“I should say so,” Ophelia said. “Perhaps the girl was searching, too, for her mother at this house.”
“Are you a relation of dear Henrietta’s, as well?”
“No, I am . . .” Ophelia cleared her throat. “I am Mrs. Brand. Of Boston, Massachusetts. Miss Bright could not, of course, travel without a chaperone. She is young, and quite alone. I encountered her by chance, degraded to the role of maid by an appalling series of events, in the scullery of an American family residing in Germany. I agreed to escort her, out of a sense of national duty and womanly propriety, to her mother here in Paris.” Half-truths, and a couple of whoppers. But Ophelia couldn’t very well say she was an actress, too, because that would mean revealing she was in disguise. Besides, she’d already had a mix-up with the police in Germany.
Speaking of which . . . Ophelia looked at the two officers. They had scarcely three chin hairs between them.
She could cow them. Easy as pie.
With Malbert translating, the two officers questioned Ophelia and Prue at the kitchen table. They had no identity papers, which caused a stir until Ophelia shamed the officers with a reminder that ladies needn’t carry such vulgar documents, and that a lady’s word was verification enough. She elaborated on the string of half-truths and whoppers, and summed up their discovery of the body in the garden.
“So,” she said, “if you mean to arrest us for murder, I do hope you will be quick about it, for I do not think Miss Bright and I shall abide another hour—no, not another minute—in this shockingly inhospitable house. I would rather spend the night in jail, thank you very much.”
Both officers’ eyes grew round, and they muttered to each other in French.
“What rude men!” Ophelia said.
“They are surprised at your suggestion of arrest,” Malbert said to Ophelia, “since the murderer has already been identified.”
“Oh! And arrested?”
“Not yet. It seems the scoundrel eluded the police and he is still at large, but the Gendarmerie is out in full force and he is expected to be apprehended shortly.”
“Who is he?”
“A certain vagabond, a useless, half-witted wretch who dwells in the alleyways and courtyards of this quartier, and who has been known to prey upon . . . ah . . . ladies of . . . ill-repute.”
“You do not mean to suggest,” Ophelia said, “that that poor girl—”
“I am afraid so.”
It wasn’t so scandalous, learning that Henrietta Bright’s daughter was a fallen woman. The real wonder was that Prue had retained her virtue, given her upbringing and her beauty, a beauty that men wished to dig into like a beefsteak dinner.
“Why was the girl in the garden of this house?” Ophelia asked.
“The police tell me that her body and garments showed signs of having been dragged there,” Malbert said.
Right. Her foot. Her bare, small, battered foot. What had become of her shoes? Had someone chased her through the night before shooting her? Is that how her toes had gotten so black and blue? “Do you mean to say that she was killed elsewhere?”
“Precisely. Her body was dragged from the street, through the carriageway, across the courtyard, and left in the vegetable patch.”
“Judging by the merely damp, rather than soaked, condition of her gown, she had not been out of doors for more than a half hour or so.”
“If the murderer has been identified, were there witnesses to the crime?”
“Not precisely, but bystanders in the street reported seeing the murderer fleeing from the carriageway on foot, and he was recognized.”
“What of the fine gown she wore?” Ophelia asked. “That was not such as ladies who haunt street corners are wont to wear.” And—not that Ophelia could say it aloud—surely that girl’s surpassing beauty would have protected her from walking the streets to find customers.
“She must have stolen the gown,” Malbert said. “Madame, the unfortunate creature was placed by chance, and only by chance, in my garden.”
“No, it is too, too great a coincidence,” Ophelia said. “Placed by chance in her own mother’s garden?”
“Forgive me for saying so, madame, but reality is . . . untidy. In reality, la chance plays the greatest role.”
Ophelia’s life had been just as pawed over by chance as the next person’s, but being lectured by strangers didn’t agree with her constitution.
The officers spoke with Malbert in French. Malbert looked at Ophelia. “They tell me that it would be wise for Mademoiselle Prudence to seclude herself until the villain has been arrested. And pray forgive me, dear ladies, for your inhospitable reception, and do consent to stay under my roof until the murderer has been arrested. It is clear, Madame Brand, that you are a lady of gentle breeding and that you are accustomed to better treatment. I shall reprimand my majordome, Baldewyn, and you and Mademoiselle Bright will be shown to the very best chambers in my home.”
“But why must Miss Bright seclude herself?” Ophelia asked.
“Because she could be in danger. She bears such a resemblance to the murder victim, it is possible that if the murderer sees her he may believe that his victim did not, after all, die. He might attempt to kill again.”
Kill Prue? Leaping Leviticus. Where was Henrietta? “I must insist upon being taken to the marquise this very instant!” Ophelia cried.
Malbert’s cheeks trembled. “It is not . . . But you do not . . . the trouble is, Madame Brand, that the marquise, Henrietta, my darling wife, she is gone. Vanished. She has been missing since Tuesday.”
Fourteen hours after Gabriel had first seen Miss Bright’s morgue drawing in The Times, his train chuffed and screeched into Gare du Nord in the middle of a sodden gray Paris morning.
After leaving his study at St. Remigius’s College, Gabriel had made a ten-minute stop at his lodgings to fetch a valise of clothing, don a greatcoat, and give directions to his housekeeper. Then he had gone directly to London. From Charing Cross, he’d ridden the South-Eastern Railway to Folkestone. He had boarded, just in the nick of time, one of the night ferries that trundled back and forth across the Channel between Folkestone and Boulogne. Once in Boulogne, it was a few hours’ anxious wait for the first morning train to Paris.
Gabriel had had a surfeit of hours to mull over a plan. So it was with a brisk step that he alighted from his first-class railway car and into the steamy hubbub of the gare. He was deaf to the babble of porters and hawkers, to the hisses of long, gleaming, eel-black trains. He was blind to the glass vaults above the platforms. He scarcely smelled the coal smoke, the whiffs of sweat, musky perfume, fresh bread, cinders, roses.
His only thought was, after so many hours caged in railway compartments and trapped with his thoughts, that at last he could act.
* * *
Le Marais—“The Marsh”—on the right bank of the Seine, was a neighborhood that had been favored by blue bloods until about a century ago. Now its edges were tattered. The Roque-Fabliau mansion at 15 Rue Garenne was a grand private town house, what Parisians called an hôtel particulier, much to the confusion of British and American tourists. Hôtel Malbert was, by the looks of it, a seventeenth-century noble house in the style of Louis XIII. Pale yellow stone, rows of tall windows, steep slate roofs, Italianate pediments and cornices.
Gabriel rapped thrice upon the front door. The knocker was shaped like a mouse’s head.
A prune-mouthed steward cracked the door several inches. “Oui?”
“Good morning,” Gabriel said in French. “Is a young lady by the name of Miss Ophelia Flax within?”
“No, indeed, monsieur, there is not. I have never heard of anyone by that name.”
Where was Miss Flax, then? Still in Germany? Returned to America?
“And the daughter of the house, the young American girl, is deceased as the newspapers claim?” Gabriel asked.
“Regrettably, yes.” The steward shut the door an inch. “None of the family had ever made the girl’s acquaintance, however, so although it was a great shock to discover a corpse in the garden, it was not felt as a loss as such.”
“I had hoped to locate the young American lady, Miss Flax, who had lately been traveling with the marquise’s daughter. Alas, I fear she has journeyed elsewhere. No matter. I still wish to speak with the marquis.”
“Oh, you all wish to speak with Monsieur le Marquis.” The door closed another inch.
Gabriel wedged his foot in the remaining space. “You misunderstand. I am not a gentleman of the press.” He drew a solid gold card case—a gift from his mother—from his inner jacket pocket and pushed his calling card through the crack.
The steward took the card. “Lord Harrington, is it? My, my. One is able to purchase anything these days, is one not?” He returned the card. “My compliments to your engraver. Beautiful work.”
Another gentleman of Gabriel’s station—his brother, for instance—would have cursed the steward, waved a cane about, made noisy demands. But Gabriel preferred more subtle tactics. He pulled his foot from the threshold. “Merci, monsieur.”
The door thumped shut.
Gabriel was not in the habit of thinking a great deal about what one might term his heart. He had attained the age of thirty-four without anyone in particular stepping forward to claim that organ, and he was glad of it. His academic work consumed him utterly.
Yet, as he spoke to the driver of the hired cabriolet waiting at the curb, his heart constricted—or did it swell?—in his chest. Either way, it was behaving in a most uncomfortable and unaccountable fashion.
He climbed into the cabriolet.
What had he fancied? That he’d discover Miss Flax weak and weeping, that he’d drag her into his arms, rescue her like a knight errant?
Utter piffle. Miss Flax was not, by any stretch of the fancy, a damsel in distress.
His cabriolet rocked forward into the mist.
* * *
“Looks like they’re changing the lock on the carriageway gate this morning,” Ophelia said to Prue. “A locksmith is fiddling with it.”
“Interesting,” Prue said, and yawned.
“It is interesting.” Ophelia peered through the trickling windowpane. Her—or, properly speaking, Mrs. Brand’s—guest chamber looked down upon the mansion’s rear courtyard. The chamber itself was an Antarctic expanse of creaking parquet, moth-chewed tapestries, furniture with chipped gold paint, and a lopsided canopied bed that smelled of mildew and mouse. However, its windows afforded a bird’s-eye view. Ophelia preferred not to look at the matted vegetable patch, straight down, where they’d found that poor dead girl. But she could just see into the shadowy carriage arch, and a man with a toolbox was changing the gate’s lock. “It’s interesting for a couple of reasons. Prue—are you listening?” She glanced over her shoulder.
“Course I’m listening.” Prue lolled on a brocade sofa. An ottoman-sized ginger cat lay in her lap. Prue popped a butterscotch drop into her mouth. “What’s so mighty interesting about some locksmith?”
“Number one, when we went into the garden that night—”
Prue sucked harder on her butterscotch.
“—well, the gate was open. Not locked. Number two, the police said that they had identified the murderer—”
“Still haven’t found him, though.”
“It has been but two days.”
“Feels like eternity. I got cabin fever, Ophelia.”
Ophelia had cabin fever, too. But there was no use dumping kerosene on a fire. “Listen. The murderer was said to be a derelict who dwells in the streets here. So, he wouldn’t have had a key to the gate.”
“You’re fishing for minnows.”
“Something doesn’t sit right.” Ophelia turned to watch the locksmith some more. “I can’t put my finger on it.”
“I know you caught a murderer back in Germany, but that don’t mean you ought to meddle again. Could be dangerous. Guess you ain’t concerned about danger, though, on account of your nerves got all frazzled out in the circus, standing on them trick ponies.”
“I cannot continue to twiddle my thumbs in this damp prison of a house while Eglantine and Austorga frisk about with their friends to the dressmaker’s, the milliner’s, lectures, concerts, lessons in—what did they say?—elocution, deportment—”
“Surely not! Dinners, soirées, the theater, the sweet shop—”
“Austorga did bring me a bag of butterscotch drops, and some nice orange jellies. And they’re keen to find husbands so they need all them refinements.”
“But they do not seem to care about that girl.”
“My sister. Their sister, sort of.”
“Yes. And your mother—it is as though she never existed. ‘Oh, she’ll be back!’ Malbert keeps saying, and your stepsisters look away.” Ophelia had even searched Henrietta’s bedchamber. It had been untidy, but it had offered up no clues as to her whereabouts. “The whole family is keeping things back, I’d wager. The servants, too.”
“A spooky lot, that’s for sure,” Prue said.
Ophelia plopped onto the dressing table stool. She had been disguised as Mrs. Brand every waking minute for the last two days. Her scalp itched under the wig, her muscles ached from hefting around the rump and bosom padding, and her skin was dry and sore from the crinkly cosmetics. “And Malbert is downright peculiar.”
“Looks like a mushroom that’s lost its cap, don’t he?”
“What does he do in that workshop of his? No one seems to know. Not his daughters. Not the servants. When I asked him last night at dinner, he behaved in a most evasive fashion—did you ever see so much blinking and stammering?” The only thing Malbert had confessed was that he was the student of some famous clockmaker, but that he did not make clocks.
Prue picked a loose blob of fluff from the cat and flicked it into the air. “Ma says all fellers is sneaky, and if you think they ain’t you’d best be double careful.”
What a distressing notion.
Ophelia got to work on her Mrs. Brand face. After that first night, she’d made certain to apply her greasepaint, and the flour paste that created the crepey effect, with a delicate hand so that it would stand up to close scrutiny. Heaven only knew how long she’d be stuck in this role, and now, well, there was no turning back.
Behind her, Prue began to snore.
When Ophelia had finished doctoring her face, she stashed her theatrical kit in the bottom of the wardrobe underneath a musty blanket. The housekeeper, Beatrice, had announced that no one would be cleaning their chambers, anyway, but Ophelia liked to be cautious.
She went to the sofa and jiggled Prue’s woolen-stockinged toe. “Prue? Wake up, Prue. It’s time to go down to breakfast.” There was a hole in her stocking, at the heel. Poor Prue. Pretty as a princess, always in rags.
Prue snuffled awake and lifted her head. “Huh? What is it? Is Ma back?”
“No. Not yet. Are you coming to breakfast?” Ophelia’s eyes fell again on Prue’s stocking.
“What?” Prue asked. “What are you gawping at my foot for?”
“Merciful heavens,” Ophelia murmured. There had been something familiar about the dead girl’s foot, about the purple nails and that swollen jut on her big toe. “That is it. That is it.”
* * *
Ophelia found Malbert hunched behind a newspaper at the breakfast table and demanded that he send at once for the police inspector. Malbert sent a note with an errand boy and returned to his newspaper.
Ophelia dug into her breakfast of coffee, buttery rolls, pungent cheese, ham, and hothouse oranges. Prue had probably gone back to sleep.
“I happened to notice a locksmith working on the carriageway gate this morning,” Ophelia said.
Malbert slowly lowered his newspaper. “Oui?”
“Might I inquire why?”
“Madame Brand, you are most curious, non? What is it that they say about the cat and curiosity?” He blinked twice and raised his newspaper again.
Was that a threat?
Inspector Foucher, from the office of the commissaire, arrived at half past eight. Ophelia and Malbert received him in a formal salon. Foucher was one of those fellows with twig legs and a barrel chest. Small brown eyes like chocolate drops peered out from a swollen face. He held a bowler hat.
“Madame Brand,” he said in a weary tone, “I am a busy man. What is it?”
“Has the murderer been arrested yet?”
“Ah. Well, I have made a most fascinating realization that might aid in your investigation. Her feet, you may recall—or, at least, the one that I saw—were in a most pitiful condition.”
“The girl’s feet were injured, oui.”
“Both of them?”
“Oui, as the result of her body having been dragged to its place in the garden.”
“I have a different theory. I propose that she was a dancer of the ballet.”
Malbert shifted in his chair.
“The ballet!” Foucher chuckled.
“I do not jest, Inspector. The feet of ballerinas are subject to the most grievous ill-treatment and injury as the result of supporting their entire weight upon the very tips of their toes.” Ophelia had seen it dozens of times, both in the circus and the theater. One dancer she’d known, Florrie, had had bunions like ripe crabapples.
Inspector Foucher frowned. “How, may I inquire, does a respectable lady like you know what the feet of a ballerina look like?”
“Oh, well.” Ophelia smoothed her cuff. “In Boston, you see, I am a member of the Ladies’ League for the Betterment of Fallen Angels.”
“How charitable,” Malbert murmured.
Ophelia leaned towards Foucher. “There are many fallen angels, you understand, employed in the theater.”
“I urge you, Inspector, to consider searching for the deceased young lady’s identity within whatever ballet theaters Paris possesses.”
“You almost seem to know who the victim was.”
“I do not. But it is worth investigating the ballet theaters, is it not?”
“Madame, I do understand that you are discomfited by this event. However, I must request that you do not intrude in police investigations. Indeed, I do realize that the gentle sex is prone to fancy, to making correlations where there are none—”
“—but we officers of the police are trained to be rationale.”
“What of the coincidence of the perished girl being placed in her own mother’s garden? And what, for that matter, are you doing in the way of locating the Marquise Henrietta? I must most emphatically suggest that the two concerns must be related, even, perhaps, interlocking.”
“Madame, I bid you good morning.” Foucher made a stiff bow and dodged out.
Ophelia stared after him. Then she looked at Malbert sitting lumpishly in his chair. “It is an outrage!” she said. “It is almost as though—yes, it is as though the police are deliberately averting their eyes from any evidence that does not fit their theory. Rationale? Horsefeathers! That Foucher is a buffoon, or lazy. Or both.”
“Madame Brand, I beg you to calm yourself. Come. Join me for a stroll in the garden. I would be most interested to hear of your charitable work in Boston.”
Ophelia stared at Malbert. Did the recent presence of a corpse in his garden not trouble him in the least? All of a sudden, Ophelia made up her mind: it was time to take matters into her own hands. To Tartarus with the police! She would discover the dead girl’s identity; she would learn where Henrietta had gone.
“No, thank you,” Ophelia said to Malbert. “I’ve just remembered a most pressing engagement.”
She hurried upstairs to her chamber. Prue was snoozing with the cat.
Ophelia cleaned her teeth at the washbasin. Then she dug the Baedeker and her reticule out of her carpetbag, tied on her black taffeta bonnet, and shrugged on her woolen cloak. Downstairs, she found an umbrella and trooped out of the house.
When Prue woke up, the ginger cat was purring on top of her, but Ophelia was gone.
She struggled to a seat. She seesawed her precious letter, Hansel’s letter, out from under the cat and smoothed the puckers. Her eyes roved to the first troubling spot:
I do not wish you to suppose, dear Miss Bright, that when we last parted at Schloss Grunewald we had formed what one might call an understanding. That I hold you in the highest esteem goes, I daresay, without saying. But you are a very young lady, and until I have completed my medical studies and secured a living for myself, I could never presume to consider any lady, however our attachment might be felt or comprehended, as anything but free.
Prue read this line for about the hundred and tenth time. She still wasn’t exactly sure she’d caught Hansel’s meaning. The line was so cluttered up with commas and genteel words, she didn’t know if she had it by the head or by the slick tail. Was he saying they’d have an “understanding” someday, in the future? Or was this his way of telling her to scoot off?
Prue fluttered away tears, and reread the letter’s second troubling spot:
Frau Beringer (She was the landlady of Hansel’s student boardinghouse in Heidelberg, Germany) keeps such a spotless house, it is truly a marvel. I do not believe I have met with such a fine housekeeper before, and I hope someday to be the master of such a gracious and meticulous household.
These lines pained Prue, fresh little heart stabbings each time she read them. Prue wouldn’t be able to make a doll’s house gracious and meticulous, let alone a real house. Ma had never taught her how.
Ma. Still missing. Her dead sister, gone forever. And Hansel acting just as sneaky as any other feller.
One fat tear plopped onto the letter. The ink of the word spotless blurred.
* * *
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Snow White Red-Handed
“Offering a clever twist on the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut historical cozy (and series launch) introduces an attractive, spunky heroine…and an entertaining, well-constructed plot that will satisfy fans of folklore and fairy tales.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Deliciously Gothic, intriguingly different, this story plunges us into the world of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, where the greed and evil are all too real, and everyone has something to hide.”—Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author
“[Chance’s] lively debut, the first in a new cozy series…will whet the reader’s appetite for Ophelia and Prue’s next misadventure.”—Publishers Weekly
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cinderella Six Feet Under by Maia Chance is the second book in A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series. It takes place in late 1867 in Paris, France. Gabriel Augustus Penrose (Lord Harrington) is a professor at St. Remigius’s College in Oxford (and has an obsession with fairy tales). He notices an article while reading the paper during tea time. The article is about a woman who was murdered in France. The picture looks like Miss Prudence (Prue) Bright who Gabriel met in the Black Forest (Germany). Gabriel might be a little bit smitten with Miss Ophelia Flax who was traveling with Prue. Gabriel decides to head to Paris immediately. Prue (she is nineteen) and Ophelia (she is twenty-five) are finally at their destination. Ophelia is taking Prue to her mother’s house. Prue’s mother is Henrietta Bright-Malbert (wife of Renouart Malbert, Marquis de la Roque-Fabliau—what a mouthful). Henrietta was an actress at the Howard DeLuxe’s Varieties in New York, but she left everything behind to marry (including Prue). Ophelia is an actress and she is in disguise to act as chaperone to Prue (a lady would not travel alone). When they arrive Henrietta is not in residence and Mademoiselle Eglantine (Prue’s new step-sister) will not let her in the house. They await nearby to watch for Henrietta when they discover the body of a woman. The woman looks just like Prue! Renouart, upon meeting Prue, invites her to stay at the house. He explains that his wife, Henrietta, is missing (and the police do not seem to be doing anything). They also believe Prue’s look-a-like was a woman of the streets and murdered by a vagabond (sounds fishy to me). After a few days of staying in the house and being bored to death (they believe that Prue might be in danger), Ophelia takes matters into her own hands (she is frustrated with the police). Ophelia along with Gabriel start investigating. As they gather more clues everything points to Cinderella, the original, very old version. Turns out that there is a special artifact that is desired by many people. Can they solve the crime before anyone else is hurt? I give Cinderella Six Feet Under 3.75 out of 5 stars. The book is interesting with a different take on the story of Cinderella. I think Ophelia Flax is an interesting character (determined, stubborn, and the ability to jump to conclusions). Gabriel and Ophelia make a great team (though Gabriel needs to learn to speak up and grow a stronger back bone). However, there are just too many people and so many different things going on. The mystery was complex and clever (I liked that part). I just found the book to be very confusing. Too many elements jammed into one book. It made it a difficult book to read. This is the second book in the series, and I highly recommend that you would read the first book before reading Cinderella Six Feet Under. It will make things a little bit clearer. I did find Prudence Bright to be portrayed as nitwit (and a twit) which was unfortunate (I do not like woman being portrayed in this manner). She was also not essential to the story except for one of the final scenes in the book. I received a complimentary copy of Cinderella Six Feet Under from the author in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.
Cinderella Six Feet Under is the second book in the A Fairy Tale Mystery series. Gabriel Penrose has returned to Oxford and has resumed his teaching duties. But one afternoon, while taking tea, he notices a story in the newspaper about a girl that has been found dead in Paris. The body appears to be that of Prue Bright, who had recently met while looking for the home of Snow White. Ophelia Flax and Prue Bright are also in Paris trying to find Prue's mother. It is believed Henrietta has married and is living in Paris. As the young ladies enter the yard of the Marquis and passing thru the garden, they trip over the body that Gabriel has seen in the newspaper. As the story develops it is learned that the body they found is actually Prue's sister and she is wearing what is reputed to be Cinderella's gown. By chance, Penrose finds Ophelia. Together they begin to search for Prue's mother, who has gone missing, and to find out who had murdered Prue's sister. Also, they learn of a rare manuscript on Cinderella are searching for that, too. I particularly enjoy historical mysteries and I found this series to be very enjoyable. Will be watching for the next book in this series.
Stiff Penalty for Not Being Home by Midnight Every so often, I find a cozy series with a hook that I never would have expected. That was certainly the case with the Fairy Tale Fatal Mysteries. Yet having read Cinderella Six Feet Under, the second in the series, I’m left wondering why no one thought to do it sooner. It’s November of 1867 and Ophelia and Prudence have moved from Germany to France since they’ve gotten word that Prue’s mother is married to a wealthy gentleman in Paris. Ophelia has saved enough money for one ticket back to America, and she is hoping that, after reuniting Prue and her mom, she can sail home on her own. However, when they arrive at the house, they learn that Prue’s mother is missing. Then they find a woman in a ball gown and only one shoe lying dead in the pumpkin patch. The woman is a dead ringer for Prue. The news story makes it all the way to England, and when Gabriel reads about it, he heads straight for Paris to see what he can do to help his two new friends. But he also has an ulterior motive. He believes that this murder has a direct tie to the story of Cinderella. Is he right? If so, how did that lead to a murder today? If you haven’t read the first book, you should know that there is a bit of fantasy in this series. The premise is that fairy tales are real, despite what Ophelia wishes. (Believe me, she is a hard skeptic.) These very light fantasy elements are only part of the window trappings of the series. The mystery is good with many believable suspects and suspicion that bounces around to just about everyone before the killer is finally revealed. I did feel that the plot made a small leap a time or two and that one element’s resolution was a little weak, but these are small points overall. Unlike many cozy series, we have three viewpoint characters. Ophelia, Prue, and Gabriel take turns as the third person narrator. I actually find this a refreshing change, and since they are often in different places at the same time, it gives us a chance to see all of the story. Author Maia Chance does a great job of using this technique to her full advantage. It also gives us a chance to really get to know these characters. All three are strong, and with how this book ends, I’m anxious to see where they will all go next. The rest of the cast is just as sharp, making it easy to keep them all straight, which is great since there is a large cast of characters. And I must go back to the fairy tale theme again. While the allusions to other fairy tales, an element I loved in the first book, isn’t as strong here, the parallels to Cinderella were so much fun to spot. Sometimes they were clues, and sometimes they weren’t, but they always made me smile. So if you enjoy a dose of fairy dust, be sure to pick up Cinderella Six Feet Under. This cozy series really is magical. NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Loved It! This is a great book, I loved it! This is the second book in the Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series by Maia Chance. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, but once you read one you will want to go back and read the first one. I love Fairy Tales so I was excited when I won an advance copy of this book. This is a historical cozy mystery with a wonderful spin to our favorite fairy tale Cinderella. Ophelia Flax is a variety hall actress who wants to reunite her friend Prue with her estranged mother, Henrietta. Ophelia and Prue travel to Paris and when they get to her mother’s mansion they find her mother Henrietta missing, and a woman shot wearing a ball gown and one glass slipper. Who happens to look just like Prue. When nobody is worried about the dead woman, Ophelia and Prue decide to investigate and find out what happened and who the killer is. If you are looking for a great mystery with a fairy tale twist then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
I’ve mentioned this in several reviews…cozy mysteries are starting to add more and more historicals to the genre. Hmmm…a new subgenre, historical-cozies. But none of the others are quite like the Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series. Author Maia Chance is breathing new life not only into cozies, but into fairy tales as well. CINDERELLA SIX FEET UNDER is a delightfully murderous take on the well-loved story of Cinderella. This story starts off early into the book with the discovery of the victim’s body. What follows is a well plotted, wonderfully written mystery that kept me guessing. Ms. Chance really did her research and captured the feel of her Victorian setting. Through her use of language and descriptions, I was transported back to Victorian times and found myself in the mystery/fairy tale and part of the investigation myself. If you’ve read the first book in this series, SNOW WHITE RED-HANDED, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy this next installment. But, if like myself, you haven’t read the first book, no worries, you won’t feel lost in CINDERELLA SIX FEET UNDER at all.