The Last Duchess: a Silver Service Mystery by Laura Powell
|The Last Duchess: a Silver Service Mystery by Laura Powell|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Spending your life curling your mistress's hair into ringlets and darning her stockings doesn't sound too gripping, but sixteen-year-old lady's maid Pattern soon finds life in the Duchy of Elffinberg to be fascinating, eventful and deadly dangerous.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Being a Lady's maid doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. Don't read novels, which will make you dissatisfied with your condition. Be observant and cheerful at all times, and grateful for the benefits you receive from your employment - however difficult it may seem, it is, after all, far better than living in poverty on the streets. And never express your own opinion, even if your mistress asks for it. These are the rules (among many, many others) used to train girls at Mrs Minchin's Academy of Domestic Servitude. There are no rules for what goes on in the privacy of your own head, however, and Pattern, generally considered the Academy's most gifted student, has plenty of opinions which, if she said them aloud, would cause her teachers to faint in genteel horror.
Despite Pattern's excellent achievements, Mrs Minchin is somewhat taken aback when her pupil's service is required for Eleri, Grand Duchess of Elffinberg. Are there really no suitable young women closer to hand? But Eleri, who at sixteen is the same age as her future maid, is convinced her life is in danger and refuses to trust anyone from her own small country.
So far, so ordinary. Eleri is as quixotic and moody as any spoiled young lady, and the other servants resent the newcomer. But things quickly turn more sinister. It would appear there really is someone out to kill the Grand Duchess, and not in some nice, painless way like poison. The fate she is destined for is vicious and terrifying, and it is up to Pattern to work out who the villains are and save her young mistress without getting killed in the process. It is, on more than one occasion, a near thing.
The background to this excellent story, the first in a series, is well-constructed and colourful. The castle is ancient and rambling, with lots of secret passages, and the servants are disorganised and unruly. The forests and fields which surround it always have a slight air of menace, and almost as soon as Pattern arrives in Elffberg she learns that children are being taken from the farms – all that remains of each one is an area of burnt ground and a shoe or buckle to identify them. Little wonder that Eleri is terrified. But gradually her quiet, capable and determined little maid wins her trust, and together the two young people battle to save their own lives and that of Eleri's people, against a foe who is devious, clever and powerful. The tension continues right until the final pages, ably assisted by Sarah Gibb's delightful illustrations, and readers will look forward eagerly to Pattern's further adventures.
There are lots of good adventure stories set in the past, and some really clever young detectives. One excellent series (though without any trace, this time, of the Dark Arts) is the Wells and Wong Mysteries by Robin Stevens: Bookbag particularly enjoyed Murder Most Unladylike, Arsenic For Tea and Jolly Foul Play.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Duchess: a Silver Service Mystery by Laura Powell at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Duchess: a Silver Service Mystery by Laura Powell at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.