famous flower of serving men
The Haunted Ballads - Book 2 - The Famous Flower of Serving Men
When Penelope Wintercraft-Hawkes, founder and director of the Tamburlaine
Players Theatre Troupe, gets a December phone call from an unknown solicitor
telling her she's come into property, she thinks it's a joke. But it's
no more than the truth: an elderly French aunt Penny never even met has
died and bequeathed her niece not only a rundown Victorian playhouse in
London's EC4 district, but enough money to bring the theatre, the Bellefield,
back to its glory days.
Penny hires her longtime companion, historic property restoration expert
and leading light of the British traditional music scene, Ringan Laine,
to restore the Bellefield to peak form. As Ringan hires workmen and oversees
the onset of the restoration project, Penny and the Tamburlaine Players
begin rehearsals for the Bellefield's opening production: Euripides' Iphigenia,
a play Penny has felt driven to produce since walking through the Bellefield's
But when Ringan tests the theatre's sound system with a recording of
a classic folk song, The Famous Flower of Serving Men, he's made aware
of the presence of an angry, violent spirit in the Bellefield. Penny hears
a voice, first whispering, then screaming, in French. The Bellefield fills
with invisible smoke. And when a workman dies on the premises, it becomes
clear that only by tracking down the truth about the Bellefield's ghost
will the theatre ever be usable in safety.
The story that unfolds is one of murder, incest, and conscience. It takes
all Ringan and Penny's experience and expertise, and the help of a few
extraordinary friends, to put a name to the violent madwoman who haunts
the Bellefield Theatre, and to lay her to rest.
The Famous Flower of Serving Men is the second novel in the Murder, Music
and Ghosts of the Past series.
"A mournful French ghost haunts a London theater.
Small-scale theatrical producer and actress Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes
is surprised and thrilled to learn that she has inherited a beautiful
London theater from distant French aunt Marie-Therese, who attended
Penny's recent productions of three classic French tragedies. The
unused Bellefield's prime location has Penny dreaming of a less nomadic
existence for her troupe.
When she visits the building, she notices a pervasive foul smell
but isn't disquieted until the odor's gone on her next visit. Meantime,
Penny's longtime lover, traveling musician/sometime contractor Ringan
Lane, agrees to help with needed renovations. On their first visit
together to the Bellefield, Penny hears muted French voices. Ringan
does not, but when he's thrown roughly from a ladder after a more
insistent auditory assault, the couple is uncomfortably reminded of
their encounter with ghosts the previous year (The Weaver and the
Factory Maid, 2003). A little digging unearths the story of Eleanor,
the Bellefield ghost.
Still, plans for the inaugural production, Euripides' Iphigenia at
Aulis, proceed apace until Penny gets in hot water with investor David
Harkins when he learns that she's kept Eleanor from him. When workman
Ray Haddon dies of a fear-induced heart attack, Penny knows she must
release the ghost.
Welcome darker undertones expand the range of the debut's refreshingly
offbeat sleuthing, more focused this time on unraveling an academic
puzzle than exposing a killer."
Publication Date: 11/17/2004
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's Minotaur
Author: Grabien, Deborah
- Kirkus Reviews
"Grabien's grasp of theater, folklore and history provides a
feast of enjoyment."
- Publishers Weekly
"An admirable blend of historical fact, folklore, and fancy
- all told with compelling panache."
- Library Journal
"The novel is a good read largely because of how Grabien doesn't
let anybody assume it's really a ghost, but makes the ghost prove
its existence. And because Grabien has noble and likable characters
in Penny, Ringan and their friends, who undertake to learn who the
ghost was in life and why the ghost is hanging around, bothering an
entire block of modern London instead of going on to where ghosts
should go." [read
- San Jose Mercury News
"Penelope Wintercraft-Hawkes is thrilled when she learns she
has inherited the Bellefield Theatre from a barely remembered aunt.
She will now have a permanent home for her touring company, the Tamburlaine
Players. She asks her longtime boyfriend, folklorist and house restorer
Ringan Laine, to head the necessary restoration. To their dismay,
they find that the theater is haunted by a vengeful spirit who employs
burning smells, flashing lights, and even more violent measures to
discourage the workers. Thanks to the previous haunting of Ringan's
cottage (see The Weaver and the Factory Maid [BKL O 1 03]), Penny
has no trouble accepting the idea of a ghost, and, with the help of
two researchers, promptly delves into the theater's past to learn
who the spectral presence is and what can be done to placate it.
Interesting period details from the late 1300s to the early 1400s,
likable characters, and an absorbing plot distinguish this fast-paced
mix of mystery and ghost story. Verses of a folk song head each chapter
and are woven into the story."
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Booklist (November 2004)
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