Lori McD's Reviews > The Necklace Affair

The Necklace Affair by Ashley Gardner
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This Captain Lacey mystery seemed more like a short story than a book! And the mystery doesn't involve murder this time, but rather the theft of a diamond necklace. Lady Clifford approaches Captain Lacey in Grenville's private drawing room at a Grenville fete. Lady Clifford is in tears, because her maid (Waters) has been arrested for the theft of Lady Clifford's valuable diamond necklace. Lady Clifford insists that Waters is innocent, and that her companion, Mrs. Dale is to blame.

What a tangled web! When Mrs. Dale's husband died, Lady Clifford invited her good friend and school chum to live with her as her companion. But it seems that the overbearing, pompous ass of her husband Lord Clifford decided that to keep his wife in hand, he'd take Mrs. Dale as his mistress -- while the two ladies live under the same roof! It's all the scandal of the "ton". Lacey, ever a softie where a lady is concerned, assures Lady Clifford he'll look into it. It just so happens that his old sergeant, Pomeroy, is the Bow Street Runner who arrested the maid Waters, and Lacey knows what a bull dog Pomeroy can be. Besides, Pomeroy doesn't get his fee unless there's a conviction. The necklace is gone, no doubt, and a maid is an easy target. The fact that she was arrested might be enough for the jury to convict her.

Lacey asks for assistance from his friend Grenville, who loves adventure, and Grenville's two footmen, brothers Matthias and Bartholomew. Bartholomew has been training as a valet, lent by Grenville to Lacey. The brothers have been instrumental in assisting with inquiries in past cases, including "The Sudbury School Murders", when they guarded the injured Grenville with their lives. The brothers are also good at getting the scoop from the downstairs crowd. So all four set off to the various pawn shops around the city, to see if they can discover the missing necklace and determine who might have stolen it. Lacey finds a much smaller and lesser quality necklace, and on a hunch, talks the pawn shop owner down to a price that he can afford and purchases it. While Grenville and Bartholomew strike out, Matthias excitedly relates a tale of a pawn shop owner who showed him the "special" merchandise kept in a back room -- and one of the necklaces seems to match the description. Grenville gives Lacey the money to purchase the necklace, and Grenville and Lacey show it to Lord Clifford. Clifford insists that the necklace is NOT his wife's missing diamonds; but he does recognize the smaller, inferior necklace as having belonged to his wife before their marriage.

Lacey now enlists the help of his friend Lady Breckenridge. Lady Breckenridge is a widow, and her husband was part of a notorious murder scheme in book #2 of the series. Lacey and the lady started with a most uneasy relationship, but they seem to be developing a friendship and perhaps more. Lady Breckenridge assures Lacey that she will go where he cannot - become part of Lady Clifford's boon friends to uncover what she can about the missing necklace and try to ascertain if Mrs. Dale is involved. But in return, she demands a favor from Lacey: meet her young son, Peter. Lacey is honored, and he realizes that Lady Breckenridge is showing a bent towards a much more serious relationship between them.

Lacey muses over Lady B's findings with his friend, Marianne, who is back in Grenville's house in London. Marianne still hasn't confided her secret to Grenville, which is still a sticking point between Lacey and Grenville, because G knows that Lacey does know. But Grenville has allowed Marianne to come and go as she pleases, which has lessened the tension between G and M. Marianne brings new eyes to the situation, however, telling Lacey that in her opinion, Lady Clifford and Mrs. Dale aren't jealous over the situation with Lord Clifford, but rather that perhaps Lady C and Mrs. D have their own "relationship" and the jealousy is over the maid, Waters.

As Lacey puts all of this together, he's summoned to James Denis' home, where he meets a former French Comte, who claims that the missing necklace belongs to him and was taken from him by Lord Clifford.

What interest does Denis have in all of this? And will Lacey put himself deeper into Denis' web to get more information about his missing wife and daughter? If Lacey is to pursue any further relationship with Lady B, he must be free, which he is not -- his wife, Carlotta, ran off with a French officer taking his daughter, Gabriella, (2 years old at the time) with her. There was no divorce. And what is really going on in the Clifford household? Where is the missing necklace?
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I took away a star from this book, even though it was one of my favorites. While I've been cynical about Lady B and what she wants from Lacey, it seems as if it's possible for the two to be happy. That is, if Lacey can get free of his wife. I want to see Lacey happy.

The mystery seems to meander, too. Perhaps it's not as compelling as murder? I think I was also disappointed, because at the end of the last book there were 2 exciting possibilities, neither of which came to pass: 1) Grenville mentioned traveling and taking Lacey along, which promises all sorts of adventures. 2) Louisa Brandon told Lacey that if he decided to go to France in search of his wife and daughter that she'd go with him. I'm hoping that we see this happen in a future book.
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