Review: Get Me to the Grave on Time by D. E. Ireland

Get Me to the Grave on Time by D. E. Ireland is the 3rd book in the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

“When a handsome young man marries an older and much wealthier woman, it does give me pause.”

“Why?” Eliza asked. “Beautiful young women marry rich older men all the time.”

“…Do you really imagine he's marrying her for love?”

Eliza gave him a disapproving look. “You act as if he's marrying some toothless laundress from Spitalfields. Her Grace is still an attractive woman.”

“So is her money and title,” Higgins shot back. “No good will come of this. Of course no good results from any marriage. Infernal institution. My advice to anyone fool enough to enter into it is that offered by Montaigne, 'A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.' I don't think much of the French, but I'll make an exception for Montaigne.”

“Oh, you're always quoting other people when you don't have anything clever to say,” Eliza said. “I'd be right embarrassed to do that. It makes you look simple.”

It's summer in London: a loverly season for weddings. Confirmed bachelor, curmudgeon, and renowned linguist Henry Higgins is dreading the four ceremonies he's expected to attend, while his erstwhile pupil Eliza Doolittle—formerly a humble flower seller from Covent Garden, now an elocution instructor herself—remains optimistic.

True, four weddings in as many weeks will be exhausting, representing four very different levels of the social stratum, from the top tier of nobility to the union of a suffragette and humble police detective. But they promise to be joyful occasions as a whole. Until the first ceremony ends disastrously, with the groom calling off the affair just moments before succumbing to a poisoned drink intended for both of the bridal party. 

It appears that Higgins's preference for “murder over matrimony” will be rewarded after all.

Was the handsome young American murdered by a jealous mistress? Was the poisoned beverage intended to silence both bride and groom—and if so, to what purpose?

When the second wedding also ends in bloody disaster, it becomes clear to Eliza and Higgins that there's something deeper at play. What connection could there be between the victims?

Perhaps it has something to do with an ill-fated Indian treasure. As Eliza and the Professor discover, a fabled treasure only recently recovered has become a contentious bone that English collectors, museums, and the people of India are fighting over. It appears that a sizable portion of the treasure has also been lost—did it truly sink during a storm, or was it smuggled off the ship and into London by greedy individuals?

An Indian couple with a vested interest in the return of the treasure have been invited to each of the ill-fated weddings; a wealthy noblewoman with long ties to the distant country has also been a guest; and many members of the wedding parties have been connected to museums or smugglers… 

“How can any civilized Englishman love India? Beastly heat, insects the size of your hand, monsoon rains that leave one drenched for weeks. And the atrocious odors.”

“You seem rather delicate,” Higgins observed. “I wonder you ever left the nursery.”

“I doubt you've been to India, Professor,” Winterbottom shot back. “If you had, I daresay you'd agree with me. As you would agree the Indians have no right to protest when museum scholars remove their antiquities. Without the British, how many ancient sites around the world would remain neglected? Or undiscovered?”

“But if it belongs to another country, we shouldn't take it for ourselves just because we want it,” Eliza said. “If you did that in the East End, you'd get your head bashed in. And your legs broken for good measure.”

Higgins nodded. “Or as the natives here call it, 'law and order in Whitechapel'.”

Get Me to the Grave on Time is the 3rd in Ireland's Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mysteries—a series that continues to charm. The cast immortalized in My Fair Lady ring true in their characterizations: Higgins is as humorously acerbic as ever, while Eliza remains plucky, spunky, and more than capable of defending herself in a tight corner. She may be a lady with an eye for fine fashion now, but you can never truly take the Whitechapel flower seller out of the girl. 

Edwardian wedding traditions naturally dominate the plot, but there's some fine commentary on the English Empire's affairs in India, with engaging diversions into art, fashion, and superstition. The supporting cast is appropriately colorful, with a sharp-shooting mistress, nefarious museum curator, bitter organist, lady Bohemian, and a fabulously wealthy (and young, and handsome, and heroic) Baron rounding out the previously established roster of characters. 

From a harrowing search of an East End slum to a lavishly opulent hotel room decked in Indian furniture… From the dressing rooms of a high-class designer boutique to a deadly topiary maze… There's hardly a dull moment for Ms. Doolittle or Professor Higgins as they resolutely chase down every thread.

In between wedding breakfasts and bouquet tosses, of course.

Bloody hell, but Higgins was tired of weddings, murders, and Indian treasures. In fact, he was beginning to think there was a curse. 

Only in this one, the victim died from frustration.

 

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Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

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