Too Hot to Handel (John Pickett)
by Sheri Cobb South
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432831684
Date: 22 June 2016 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Almost more romance than mystery, Too Hot to Handel centers on jewel thefts associated with the Durry Lane Theater. The widowed Lady Fieldhurst and John Pickett, Bow Street runner, are maintaining a watch on the Royal box and Russian diamonds when a fire breaks out during a performance of Handel's Oratorio Esther. The two are trapped in their box.
John manages to make a rope from strips of the box curtains to lower them to the floor below. With Julia on his back, they are almost there when the improvised rope catches fire and burns. John falls and Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, lands on top of him. Together they fight the escaping crowd to reach the exit. Outside, John collapses and Julia discovers the back of his head is bloody.
Anxious to get John to a doctor, Lady Fieldhurst commandeers a man's sedan chair and takes John to his lodgings. She sends for a doctor to attend to the wound.
Determined to keep John safe, Julia refuses to let a quack drill a hole in his skull. He remains unconscious and Julia insists on nursing him. When John's chief, Mr. Colquhoun, visits to check on a mad woman threatening the doctor, he finds Julia caring for John. He immediately arranges for a respected surgeon to visit John.
A lady friend of John's, a trollop named Lucy Higgins, arrives and Julia sends her packing. Meanwhile the search for the jewel thief goes on with John's enemy in charge of the effort.
While brushing John's suit, Julia discovers the stolen diamonds. She is certain John had no opportunity to take them and that the villain who hit him must have put the diamonds there to incriminate John. She hides the diamonds in his bureau.
Unfortunately, when Julia leaves to arrange for an extended stay with John, she sets Lucy to watch him. Ever curious, Lucy rifles Johnís bureau and discovers the diamonds. However, she considers them just a gaudy trinket and assumes, since he has often given her such things before, that the necklace was meant for her.
John and Julia's "Scottish Marriage" is to be quietly annulled within a fortnight. John had perjured himself on his affidavit, claiming impotence, so the annulment could proceed. Originally, knowing a relationship with John would not be accepted by Society, Julia had sought the annulment. Now, she's not so sure.
She faces many obstacles as she strives to learn who attacked John and tried to frame him as the thief. She struggles on while John barely clings to life.
Unfortunately, most readers should identify the thief early on and may wonder why authorities took so long to discover the truth. The attraction between John and Julia has been a driving force in the John Pickett Mysteries after the young couple unwittingly marries by Scottish Law. However, the threat to John's life puts everything in a new perspective.
Expect new directions as the series continues with new roles for both Julia and John. The series historical setting and crimes are interesting and the solutions not usually obvious.