An historical murder mystery set in the 1820's.
The second Underwood mystery finds the self-appointed detective back in the Pennines, now a married man.
His brother Gil has been made vicar of a Spa town called Hanbury and it is here where Underwood and his wife Verity arrive for a visit.
Within days they are embroiled in another murder mystery when Josephine Dunstable dies in the Spa Pump-rooms, apparently poisoned by a cup of the supposedly healing waters. Since she is seventy and her new husband just barely twenty-seven, immediate suspicion falls upon the groom, and only Underwood believes the young man’s protestations of innocence.
Hanbury is full of interesting characters and during the course of his investigations, Underwood finds himself befriending Toby Hambleton, a black ex-puglilist, Major Jeremy James Thornycroft, a Waterloo veteran without legs, Lady Hartley-Wells, a redoubtable widow and her foppish nephew Vivian Pepper.
Will Underwood find the true killer of Josephine Dunstable or will her young husband Oliver become ‘food for the gallows’?
Having set a high standard in A Noble Pair of Brothers, book two in the Underwood series was going to have a tough time topping it. Fortunately, Food for the Gallows doesn't try to outdo its predecessor, however it does bring back our favourite characters from book one. Underwood is less stiff in this one, and I like the charm of the scenes between him and wife Verity.
Verity's a more realistic woman compared to waif-like Charlotte (who I also like but Verity just seems like a better fit for Underwood).
The plot this time centres on the death of Mrs Dunstable, a woman in her 70s. Now for the time period, living into your 70s would be like living into your 100s today, so at first her death is not treated with suspicion. But she has a young husband...and she left a considerable estate. More than enough reason to do her in.
"...one of the most enjoyable murder mysteries I have read in a while."
So the book's set piece is off and running. Underwood does do some running around the truth, before the eventual culprit (in a very intense and surprising scene) is revealed. Being taken to the gallows back then would be the most horrendous method of execution in my view, but the setting, just as with book one is beautifully created.
This is one of the most enjoyable murder mysteries I have read in a while. I like the Latin introductions to each chapter, and the interplay between Underwood and his brother, still the Reverend Gil, are entertaining and believable.
Without graphic violence or gratuitous sex scenes, the author has created another solid mystery for readers to enjoy. 4.5 stars from me.