Title: The Serpent In The Garden
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: Feb 25, 2005
Book Blurb: She opened the shagreen box. Couched in gray silk was an emerald necklace, one he had not seen for twenty years. The stones were just as he recalled them: a dozen or more, baguette cut and set in gold links, with a single ruby at the center. Flashes of verdigris, orpiment, and Prussian blue sparkled in the candlelight. The form of this necklace was as disturbing as ever. It had nearly cost him his life. It is the summer of 1765. The renowned and exquisitely dressed portrait painter Joshua Pope accepts a commission to paint the wedding portrait of Herbert Bentnick and his fiancée, Sabine Mercer, to whom Bentnick has become engaged less than a year after the death of his first wife. Joshua has barely begun the portrait when a man's body is found in the conservatory. A few days later, Sabine's emerald necklace disappears, and Bentnick accuses Joshua of theft. The painter is suddenly fighting not only for his reputation but for his life. With a sure understanding of period detail and character, Janet Gleeson creates a richly nuanced tale of greed and revenge that plays out in the refined landscapes and dark streets of eighteenth-century London.
Joshua Pope is an artist working on the wedding portrait for Herbert and Sabine. He's a totally unique character. He is a widower, whose wife and child died a year before from drowning. He's scared of water.
The mystery starts when a man ends up in the pinery. This book has a lot of information on the growing of pineapples, which is something Sabine knows a great deal about, and she is bringing that knowledge with her to England.
Shortly after the death of the man Sabine's beloved serpent necklace goes missing, and Herbert knows that it was left in Joshua's care.
This beginning part of the novel takes a a little bit of time to get going, but you get a good introduction to the characters, Sabine in particular. She's not particularly likable and she's one of the people that you suspect early on of being a killer, though there is no reason why she'd have her own necklace stolen.
While Joshua works to find out who stole the necklace, mystery after mystery appear and they all seem to point to one person. Of course, that's not the killer, or perhaps it is, in a round about way when you make it to the very end of the book.
I love how thorough Joshua was in trying to find answers, especially after the death of Herbert's daughter Caroline.
There's a large cast of characters in this book and so many incidents that need investigating. Probably the most interesting is the existence of a woman who was the daughter of Sabine's late husband. Her existence keeps the story going, though ultimately she's not as important to the outcome as you might originally think.
I love how things began to keep turning up as Joshua keeps looking for answers. It made the story a real page turner. I definitely will read more of Janet Gleeson's books.
Rating: 4 flowers