The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart

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The Pigeon Pie Mystery
336 pages; Doubleday
This mystery is a delicate yet kooky romp. At the book's heart is Mink, formally known as Her Highness Princess Alexandrina, daughter of the Maharaja of Prindur. Raised by her exiled father in England, the princess finds herself destitute upon his death thanks to his taste for luxury. Luckily, Queen Victoria offers her a "grace-and-favor" home at Hampton Court Palace, a refuge for the genteel-and-cash-strapped. Mink moves to a house near the castle's maze, a popular tourist attraction. Before long, though, she's drawn into a maze of a different kind: the investigation of the death of one of the palace's least popular residents, General Bagshot, who appears to have died from eating a poisoned pigeon pie. But as Mink investigates, she finds something surprising: a group of people filled less with malice than with a desire for love in a world that offers little of it. Their longing gives them a zany wisdom that helps Mink find her own place in the world. As one character admonishes, it's a poor choice to "fall into the fatal habit of thinking that if you were somewhere different, life would be so much better. There are moths everywhere." And it's true: There are moths—and many other things that eat away at clothes and souls—no matter where one looks in Mink's world. Every life is its own maze, and escape is not the solution. Instead, it's best to find a little place for oneself within the tall, impenetrable hedges.
— Nathalie Gorman