Countess Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, former mistress to King Charles II but in 1699 now fallen on hard times, links up with her former maidservant, the solid and reliable Alpiew, to offer their services in tracking down the killer of people who have some secret knowledge of alchemy. At times joining them is a friend, the elderly garish Duchess de Pigalle. The trios pratfalls, tricks, and adventures through Londons underground society and surrounding countryside result in a lively, albeit improbable, story.
This is the first of the Countess de la Zouche mystery series. The story is filled with references to London theater pieces, performers, and music, reflecting Morgans training as an actor and her study of Restoration comedy. Having written a number of nonfiction studies on women from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we also can assume that Morgan has credibly portrayed the manners, dress, and appearance of Countess Ashby and her friends.