For Deader or Worse (John Pickett)
by Sherri Cobb Smith
Review by Mel Jacob
Sonatina Press Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780692729830
Date: 22 February 2017
Bow Street runner John Pickett stumbles onto murder and a thirty year old mystery on his wedding trip to the country. He has no idea that what he discovers may threaten him and his beloved wife Lady Fieldhurst.
Newlyweds Bow Street Runner John Pickett and his wife Julia, the former Lady Fieldhurst, make a trip to meet his titled in-laws, Sir Thaddeus and Lady Runyon. A frosty welcome for John hints at an unpleasant visit. A foray into society leads to a faux pas by John saved only by the rapid intervention of a family friend, the dashing Major Jamie Pennington. However, John's skill at opening a supposedly secure safe to win a bet by Sir Thaddeus enables him to gain favor with his father-in-law.
When Sir Thaddeus chances upon the body of his head groom, John takes charge. The man's throat had been cut and his pockets hold quite a bit of money. Checking out the surrounding area, John finds a gentleman's greatcoat splashed with blood in a nearby stable. The property belongs to Major Jamie Pennington, a close friend of Julia's parents and the man who had earlier saved John from social disgrace.
The Runyon home is haunted by a ghost that no one has seen. Late one night, John becomes suspicious and investigates mysterious footsteps. In the old nursery, he comes face to face with woman who immediately flees. He is unable to follow, but finds an earring. He soon learns about a family mystery and Sir Thaddeus eventually asks John to look into the disappearance of his elder daughter some thirty years ago.
Initially some suspicion fell on Jamie Pennington, but nothing was ever proven, and he had joined the army. The only trace of Claudia, Lady Buckleigh, was a blood soaked shawl and her wedding ring. Her body was never found.
Sherri Cobb Smith has written a number of Regency romances and mysteries as well as a series of novels for teens. The popular John Pickett series includes six novels and two short novellas. As always the writing is smooth and takes the reader along as John navigates the nuances of titled society and country living. Few are likely to guess the killer of the groom until after a murder near the end of the novel.