Summer, 1765. The renowned portrait painter Joshua Pope is eager to escape London and his unhappy past and accepts a commission to paint a wedding portrait for Herbert Bentnick and his bride-to-be, Sabine Mercier.
Joshua learns that the couple are avid horticulturalists. Bentnick's country house, Astley, in Richmond, is famous for its verdant gardens, designed by the master landscape artist Capability Brown. Sabine Mercier, who has lived most of her life in the Indies, is an expert in growing pineapples, the fruit of choice at the grandest dinner parties and an inspiration to artists and craftsmen.
But soon after Sabine begins to cultivate pineapples in the vast conservatory at Astley, she discovers a body among her plants. Why, wonders Joshua Pope, is so little attention paid to this bizarre death? Why do Bentnick's children regard their future stepmother with suspicion and fear? And what connection does Sabine's daughter Violet have with the dead man?
Outraged that any life can be valued so lightly, Joshua begins to investigate the death. But then Sabine's valuable emerald necklace disappears, and he is implicated. His need to discover what has happened at Astley suddenly becomes more pressing. Can Joshua solve the mystery before his reputation is ruined? And, more immediately, can he stay alive long enough to do so?
Following her acclaimed début, THE GRENADILLO BOX, Janet Gleeson has written another compelling tale of murder and mystery set in an exquisitely and authentically rendered Georgian England.