The Grenadillo Box

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Nathaniel Hopson, working under master cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale, grudgingly journeys from London to remote Horseheath Hall in Cambridgeshire to ensure that Lord Montfort’s library is finished on time. Hopson’s friend John Partridge, designer and builder of the elaborately carved structure, should have gone in his place but has inexplicably disappeared. On New Year’s Day a gunshot rings out and Lord Montfort is found dead, holding a box made of rare grenadillo wood. From blood on the open window to leeches on the corpse’s neck, the clues point more towards murder than suicide. The next morning Hopson finds his friend Partridge frozen face-down in the pond and missing fingers on his right hand. Unwillingly caught up in the investigation, Hopson uses his position to get an “Upstairs, Downstairs” entry into places a policeman could never venture and leads an investigation from Cambridgeshire to London and from kitchen to boudoir.

Author Janet Gleeson, an expert on antiques and eighteenth century London and a former employee of Sotheby’s, has penned a first novel that will appeal to the educated and to antique and art lovers. Her writing style mimics that of the period in which the story is set, when authors wrote with the intent to engage the reader for a lengthy period of time. Critics who pan her capability in the mystery field should note that The Grenadillo Box is presented as a novel about nobles and country homes, not as a mystery. The intrigue is merely a bonus.