Charlton, Karen - 'The Missing Heiress'
London 1809. Detective Stephen Lavender is assigned to the disappearance, from a locked bedroom, of an heiress. Helen Carnaby lived in a stately hall called Linn Hagh in Bellingham, Northumberland. The young woman is about to come of age and gain her inheritance.
She lives uneasily with her half-brother and half-sister, George and Isobel. George being the eldest is Helen's ward. Her only family friend is her brother Matthew who is backward and mute. She relies very much on her maid Anne, as well as having befriended a Gypsy girl. George enjoys wild drunken parties with his friends as well as hunting. Living the life of a wealthy landowner without having the money.
Lavender has requested the assistance of Constable Ned Woods and together they take the stage coach north. One of the passengers is a senora Magdalena Morelas who is a married Spanish aristocrat. Lavender is very attracted to her. When the stage coach is attacked by highwaymen the senora saves Lavender's life.
Lavender and Woods are instructed by Helen's uncle Mr Armstrong. By this time the girl has been missing for a month so it proves a difficult case for the policemen. The local villagers mistrust those at the Hall and George and Isobel are very unhelpful. The gypsies camping on Carnaby land are also tight-lipped and evasive. How did Helen Carnaby vanish? Can Lavender and Woods find out what became of the missing heiress?
This is the first book in the series by the author. Apparently the story is based on an incident from one of the author's ancestor's life. I enjoyed the book immensely. Very highly recommended. I intend to read her other book, CATCHING THE EAGLE.
Geoff Jones, England
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