TOO HOT TO HANDEL – Sheri Cobb South
Another John Pickett Mystery , Book 5
Five Star Publishing (Hardcover)
London, England – 1809
As Julia, Lady Fieldhurst and her overbearing cousin-in-law, George, who replaced her late husband as Viscount Fieldhurst, and her equally demanding mother-in-law get set to leave the theater in Drury Lane, they notice a stir. An elderly lady complains loudly that her emeralds have been stolen. Thinking quickly of the handsome young man who saved her from being taken up for the murder of her husband, she urges the lady to send to Bow Street. She hopes they will send her husband, whom she hasn't seen in some month. She has another husband already? A Bow Street runner? How odd! It was totally accidental that Lady Julia and John Pickett met in Scotland after that earlier ordeal. She wanted to be unrecognized in Scotland, and the first alias she could think of when registering at the hotel was Mrs. John Pickett . When John arrived as well, he didn't give her away, so he just got his own room. Little did they know of the peculiar laws in Scotland. By representing themselves as a married couple, they were, indeed, now legally married! Very few know of their predicament back in England, where they are awaiting an annulment from the Ecclesiastical Court.
Meanwhile, the Magistrate at Bow Street, Mr. Patrick Colquhoun, didn't send John to the theater; he sent William Foote, who had been instrumental in recovering other jewels stolen in recent robberies. Colquhoun is a great friend of John's. He had saved John from the life of a pickpocket when he was a teen on the streets. Now he's the brightest investigator he has. Though the other jewels were recovered, the thief was never caught, so Colquhoun devises a plan. Princess Olga Fyodorovna of Russia is in town with her famous string of huge diamonds. She will be attending a production of Handel's Esther at the Theater Royal. An underling will be in the party wearing the jewels, and men will be stationed in the pit and at all the exits. It would help to have someone in the theater boxes as well, so he sends John to a tailor for gentleman's garb and suggests he ask Lady Julia to attend with him to give him countenance. Julia is thrilled. The problem arises as the music ends and it's time to leave. The princess's diamonds are gone, the door to John and Julia's box—three stories up—won't open, and the theater is on fire! From here, I will only say that John is a hero, that he's injured enough to lay him up unconscious for days with Julia not only taking care of him, but doing her best to keep suspicion away from John as the thief.
Don't forget that John and Julia are only kept apart by their wildly different stations in life and that the awaited annulment is only days away. Be sure not to miss the conclusion of their love story.
Ms. Cobb South wrote her story with a deft and riveting talent, then added icing on the cake with an author's note.